It’s almost become a tradition that on opening night of shows at Her Majesty’s Theatre (and I’m sure all across the Melbourne venues) that the audience gives a standing ovation, and the opening of Singin’ in the Rain was no exception: a well crafted, highly energetic show that made it’s opening night audience laugh, cheer and want to sing and dance along.
We first need to not judge these actors for not being Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, as they are instead some of Australia’s strongest dancers and actors. The show is both a wonderful homage to the original, classic MGM movie from 1952, as well as a fresh take on the songs, dance moves and characters we know so well.
Adam Garcia is a charming Don Lockwood and a dancing sensation, but there are a few moments where he seems a little less sure of his voice and range, and his pitching during some harmonies with Jack Chambers, the energetic Cosmo Brown. Garcia’s ballads, solo songs and performance of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ are absolutely on point though, with high energy, charm, joy and a lot of fun. His character is strong and he plays the role beautifully.
Chambers is a buoyant Cosmo Brown, a bit of a show stealer just like in the movie: he is every bit as charming, handsome and talented as Garcia/Lockwood, and fights for a little bit of that attention across the show. His role as comic relief throughout the show is a delight and his awkwardness and comedic timing really make some of the shows moments have a little something extra.
Gretel Scarlett stars as our heroine, Kathy Selden, in a role that suits her far better than her time as Sandy in Grease. Unlike Debbie Reynolds in the original movie, Scarlett can really dance and her extensive experience in all styles is a huge asset to her in this role, every bit keeping time and setting the pace for the other actors around her. Her innocence, optimism and energy bring to life Selden’s ambition, passions and love for Lockwood.
We must also mention Erika Heynatz as the shrill Lina Lamont, impatient and perfectly horrendous, and every bit as cruel and demanding as expected- Heynatz has done a fantastic job of portraying her. She shrieks through her song ‘What’s Wrong with Me’, and was always a strong presence and character whenever on stage.
The casting of this show, by Lynne Ruthven, is impeccable, and character was always very strong- from ensemble members developing little story lines and character points in the opening number to clear conviction each one of them had, it’s clear that everyone in this show was cast because of their strong ability to build a character (and their dancing!).
Choreography by Andrew Wright and associate Jaye Elster is slick, energetic and fills the space well, with the broad range of styles the show presents embraced, and well executed. It’s disappointing we couldn’t hear more of the tapping throughout the show, as it is a percussive part of the music and soundscape of the show, and it’s hard to tell whether this is a levels issue, competing over the singing and the band, or a set issue, with the tapping mostly occurring inside the “basin” on stage.
The set was spectacular and bright, from placing the band above the stage, to the on stage “basin” or depression in the stage, used to catch and drain the water from ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and the finale. While this meant that we lost sight of a few shoes here and there, it was part of a brilliant design that allowed water to flow from the ceiling twice, to create the magic that is the title song of the show. From clever use of screens to show little snippets of the movies they were making (and screens placed in the backs of the stalls to show those with poor sightlines to the top of the stage), to ease of which sets changed using the fly tower and an archway through the centre of the stage, and the ability to easily transform the space, all of it was well crafted, bright and beautiful and a joy to watch. In particular, the combination of clever lighting and set pieces, during ‘Broadway Rhythm’ stood out, from the neon signs and well rehearsed numbers using chairs. The backdrop in the archway of the stage was cleverly customised with neon light backdrops, a screen painting with clouds, it became a stage curtain… the set design is fresh and innovative and takes the elements and glamour of old Hollywood and the movie industry and thrusts it on stage.
Costuming is flattering, sparkly and glamorous, capturing the styles of the 1920s well, while keeping inspiration and classic pieces from the show.
There were a few sound issues, like the hard to hear tap dancing, some soft dialogue and the voices competing over the band at the start of the show, but these were corrected quickly.
Singin In The Rain is an absolute delight for theatre goers and lovers of the original movie. Don’t miss this incredible performance.
Singin’ In The Rain is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre for 8 weeks and will follow with seasons in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
Tickets on sale from: http://singin.com.au/
Photo credit: Jeff Busby