What could be better than watching tap dance and singing on a stage while rain pours down? The delightful musical, Singin’ in the Rain, has opened at the Teatro at Monte Casino. Based on the 1950s film of the same name (starring Gene Kelley and Debbie Reynolds), the stage version is just as rambunctious and fun.
The musical adheres closely to the plot of the film. It’s 1927 and movies are about to change forever as silent film makes way for “talkies”. Producers at Monumental Films studio are dismissive of the new format, but when The Jazz Singer, the first talkie, is a smash hit, they realise they’ll have to change with the times. Monumental Films’ two biggest stars and regular onscreen couple, Don Lockwood (Grant Almirall) and Lina Lamont (Taryn-Lee Hudson), have been golden money makers. Up to now.
The decision by producer, RF Simpson (James Borthwick), to change the latest Lockwood-Lamont film, The Duelling Cavelier, into a talkie is a disaster. A preview screening leaves the audience baffled and shocked at Lina’s hilarious but horrendously high-pitched voice (think Fran Drescher times two) and, what sounds like a drawling Syracuse New York accent. But what to do? Don’s best friend and musician, Cosmo Brown (Steven van Wyk), comes up with the idea to use Don’s love interest, the talented Kathy Selden (Bethany Dickson), to dub Lina’s dialogue. Simpson also believes the film should be made into a musical, with singing and tap dancing, despite the film being set during the French Revolution.
Kathy is a newcomer to the acting scene and has the pure, angelic voice needed to pull off the new movie. The Duelling Cavalier becomes The Dancing Cavalier. But Lina is not happy with the substitution, and in jealousy and spite, does all in her power to derail Kathy’s potential career as a lead actress, and her relationship with Don.
Singin’ in the Rain provides childlike delight. There’s nothing dark about this musical; all the conflict is humorous. The only real hint at depth is a screechy song by a sulky Lina, in which she asks “what’s wrong with me?” “Nothing,” she concludes.
The roles are perfectly cast. Grant Almirall, recently seen as Frankie Vallie in Jersey Boys, is wonderful as the confident, suave Don. Bethany Dickson’s sweet voice as Kathy Selden is in stark contrast to the shrill Lina, while Steven van Wyk’s Cosmo Brown is a real good-natured, ‘everybody’s pal’. Taryn-Lee Hudson is smashing as Lina, the archetypal dumb blonde whose parrot-like screech is like taking a cheese grater to the brain. Her performance is the funniest of all and garnered the most laughs at the opening night.
The stage design is rather wonderful, with a floor that can carry a deluge of water in which to dance, before having to be dried again quickly for the actors not to slip in subsequent scenes. For those worried about the current drought, fear not, the water is recycled back into the tank above the stage. The set also includes the separately-filmed black and white movies that star Don and Lina (watch out for the hilarious talkie blunder), which is shown on a large screen, as in a cinema.
Singin’ in the Rain is the perfect antidote to the Sunday blues. Or Monday blues. Any kind of blues, really. It’s impossible not to feel “happy again”, and the famous singing-dancing scene in the rain, and the colourful finale, are some of the best payoffs in any theatre musical. Oh, and if you’re sitting in the front, you might want to bring a raincoat.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Singin’ in the Rain is on at the Teatro at Monte Casino until 13 March 2016