Singin’ in the Rain is the original feel good show.
Walk into the theatre in a grumpy mood and out of sorts with the world, and two and a half hours later walk out with a smile and a lightness of heart. That’s the power of this traditional musical, set in the time when talkies were taking over from silent movies, which provided huge challenges for the moviemakers of Hollywood.
Most people will remember the famous film that spawned this musical, starring Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden, Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown and Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont.
As the curtain rises, we meet the darlings of the silent screen, Lockwood and Lamont, (Adam Garcia and Erika Heynatz) the studio’s dream team for romantic marketing. While they look fabulous together on screen, as soon as Lamont opens her mouth, we realise she has a voice that could shatter glass, and their off-screen relationship is decidedly prickly. Enter studio sidekick Brown (Jack Chambers) and aspiring stage actress Selden (Gretel Scarlett) and the stage is set for a story of challenges, romantic misunderstandings and a rollicking tale with an infectious joie de vivre sweeps the audience along in its wake.
Perhaps the real star of the show is the spectacular choreography by Andrew Wright and Jaye Elster This is a definite hoofers’ musical, and the dancing is brilliant. Also especially impressive are the costumes and uncluttered set from designer Simon Higlett. The multi-coloured costumes strike just the right note, and when glamorous costumes are called for, the sparkles and spangles come out. Original director Jonathan Church and resident director Scott J Hendry bring the best out of a fine cast.
The casting is impressive, with the four leads embracing their stage personas and imbuing them with an exciting level of energy which infects the whole cast and is sustained until the final curtain, never letting the pace drop. On opening night, Adam Garcia’s Don Lockwood seemed a tad tentative in his first song, but soon settled to give a knock out performance, so perhaps a few understandable opening night nerves needed to be overcome.
As his comic sidekick, Erika Heynatz was a comic delight – excellent timing, large than life character and a deliberately awful voice that would send you screaming. Jack Chambers’ Brown exhibited huge stage charisma and matinee idol looks – he naturally drew the eye and I suspect we are going to see a lot of this talented young man in the future. Gretel Scarlett’s Kathy was the ultimate triple threat – a superb dancer, singer and actor who won the audience’s heart. A fine performance indeed.
In the smaller character roles of Hollywood commentator Dora Bailey, and studio boss RF Simpson, Robyn Arthur and Mike Bishop prove that their years of experience and fine acting chops allow them to make a meal of their characters and play the audience delightfully.
The highlight of the show was the two Singin’ in the Rain sequences, where a sheer wall of rain descends and keeps on coming as Garcia gives us a magnificent dance performance worthy of Gene Kelly, and the whole cast reprise at the end is a total audience pleaser.
A song and dance musical like this simply wouldn’t work without good musical backing, and the orchestra led by musical director Adrian Kirk and deputy MD Vicky Jacobs are a tight knit ensemble that deliver fabulous support to their talented cast. Singin’ in the Rain also has the bonus of being suitable for anyone from youngsters to centenarians!
So if Melbourne’s grey autumn and winter days are bringing you down, buy a ticket to this show and be transported back in time to a different era of song, dance and gorgeous costumes, great dance routines and catchy songs. You will walk out feeling ready to take on the world again.
The picture was taken by Jeff Busby.
Singin’ in the Rain is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre Melbourne before opening in Sydney on July 9, Brisbane on September 16 and Adelaide on December 3.