Singin' in the Rain
Singin’ In The Rain
Geelong Performing Arts Centre, July 13, 2012
Reviewed by Malcolm Sanders
There is no denying CenterStage has huge ambition. Still in its infancy, and with only one previous production under their belt, the decision to mount a production of Singin’ In The Rain shows real guts. To then present a finely tuned and thoroughly entertaining production on top of that, you have to hand it to Producers David Greenwood and Elise Dahl for their bravery. The gamble has most definitely paid off. This production is slick, stylish and extremely well executed.
This musical sits in the collective psyche; often called the most perfect musical, Singin’ In The Rain, as director Shaun Kingma points out in his show notes, is pure unadulterated entertainment. We know the songs by heart, its scenes are iconic, its characters intimately familiar. To watch an interpretation of this show inevitably conjures up those images we know so well. It is absolutely to the credit of this ensemble that it was not a struggle to overcome those images, and immerse ourselves wholeheartedly into this cleanly executed production.
Having the experience of Shaun Kingma as Director for this production was a wise move for the company. He has given the show a sharp polish, and his clever, functional and stylish set design perfectly captures the feel of late 1920’s Art Deco Hollywood. The huge number of scene changes were handled exceptionally well; acknowledgement must be made of Stage Manager Kim Sutton and her highly drilled stage crew for their excellent work in making the transitions in this technically complex show seamless. Any small glitches in the opening performance will no doubt be ironed out by the second week, if not sooner!
Complementing the beautiful set designs were meticulous costuming by Pauline Greenwood, and hair designs by Adam DiBiase. It was clear that thorough research had been done to provide this fine level of detail and to create such a unified overall look for this production.
The success of this production undoubtedly rests with the casting of four outstanding young actors in the lead roles. As Don Lockwood, Chaise Rossiello has some big shoes to fill, and he does so with ease. His warm characterisation made him inescapably likeable. A dancer, singer and actor of great skill, and with an easy masculinity reminiscent of Gene Kelly, he was able to carry the show on his shoulders effortlessly - his work in the title number at the end of Act 1 was of particular note, as was his dancing in the Broadway Melody sequence in Act 2.
As Kathy Seldon, Amy Larson was as close to perfect as anyone could hope for. Her girl next door charm, combined with honey vocals made her a delight from start to finish. Every scene she was in was measured, she was able to give the character a fine edge of strength to counteract any potential of making the character too sickly sweet. Larson is undoubtedly a performer of incredible skill.
Adam DiBiase gave Cosmo Brown, Lockwood’s piano playing offsider and partner-in-crime, a gangly awkwardness that was refreshing and fun. His main number Make Them Laugh was energetic, but still needed some refinement in its highly tuned slapstick sequence. I have no doubt he will relax into it as the show run progresses, but the heavily choreographed sequence needs to feel effortless and easy for it to succeed fully.
As silent movie star Lina Lamont, the glamorous silent movie actress with a voice like fingers down a blackboard, Nadia Gianotti gave a bravura performance. Her accent was pitch perfect, hilarious yet not overdone, her characterisation comedic yet not going too far into complete stereotype or parody. Gianotti made the most of every scene she was in with an outstanding result.
The rest of the ensemble were uniformly excellent, in particular it was great to see Paul Watson on stage again after such a long time, approaching the two roles of Roscoe Dexter and the Male Dictation teacher with his trademark attention to detail.
Mark Elshout brought together a vibrant orchestra for this performance. His vocal work with the cast was outstanding; ensemble singing was of particular note. Choreography by Michelle McDowall was excellent across the board, and particularly in the tap numbers. Michelle was able to place her stamp on the dances while still providing the odd wink to the iconic choreography that we know so well. The sound design was also very well handled (apologies – I could not find anyone in the program to acknowledge for this) with a great balance between orchestra and cast.
This production of Singin’ In The Rain is an outstanding achievement for such a young company. The ambition of the producers combined with the experience of the production team has made a show of great quality. Congratulations on a uniformly excellent production.