Singin’ in the Rain – music theatre doesn’t come more iconic than this gem of a show. Most music theatre performers and audiences alike grew up watching the classic 1952 film, and escaping to the wonderful world of film making and all its glorious nostalgia.
It is only natural that when he was cast as Don Lockwood in Babirra’s production of Singin’ in the Rain, Robbie Wilton felt that it was only right that he look to the quintessential Don as a starting point. “When you’re playing Don Lockwood, how can you not seek inspiration from the man himself, Gene Kelly?”, reflects Wilton. “Really, he’s been a personal inspiration my whole life. That isn’t to say that every mannerism [of mine] is one that you’ve seen before. Whilst Don and Gene may be charming, charismatic and the epitome of the leading man, I’d say there are sensitivities very similar to my own personality that have influenced some of my decisions in my portrayal”.
In the role of Lockwood’s wingman, Cosmo Brown, Jeremy Russo has also felt keenly the responsibility that comes with playing such a well-known and well loved character. “I definitely feel the pressure of being compared to Donald O’Connor’s interpretation of the character”, says Russo. “ ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ is a number that is so famous and well-known – there are some elements that audiences expect to see and are going to get, but also there are new and innovative quirks to the number that are also hilarious to watch! It has been so fun to add my own spin to the character and bring my own elements of physical comedy to ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’, it is a comedy bonanza and hopefully the audience will be in stitches!”
While he has felt the pressure of presenting such a role so strongly associated with Gene Kelly, Wilton has also relished the challenge. “I’m typically an ensemble performer and so I’ve never done this before – the experience has been so different to what I’m used to”, says Wilton. “Add to that the fencing lessons, filming the silent films, couch-tipping, oh, and, of course, the rain on stage! It’s been an endeavour to say the least, but looking back on it now, I’m so happy this was my first experience doing all of those things. I’ve accomplished so much and it’s really shown me just how strong I am and how I can achieve these things that a few years ago I never really thought I’d ever do”
Cosmo is someone whom Russo easily relates. “Cosmo is a cheeky, loveable and quirky friend in the show, and I definitely relate to those qualities”, smiles Russo. “He has amazing wit and intelligent humor and is always trying to cheer up his closest friends. [It’s] a real “bromance”, both on and off the stage!”
Chatting with Russo, it becomes clear that Babirra audiences are in for quite a treat. “The cast of Singin’ in the Rain are all amazing triple threats!”, marvels Russo. “I’m in constant awe of some of the dancing, acting, singing and even acrobatic ability that they all possess! […] It brings me such happiness to see how committed people are to even the smallest of roles and how tight some of the ensemble numbers have become. It really is going to be a fantastic show!”
As the company heads into opening night, Wilton is holding close to his heart some wise words from one of his theatre mentors – “You can do this”…” It sounds so trite, but leading up to this role I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes. My mantra this entire season has been to recite those words. They were right”.
Babirra’s Singin’ in the Rain opens on Friday June 1st at the Whitehorse Centre, Nunawading, and runs through until Saturday June 16th.
Tickets are available through www.babirra.org.au