Singin' in the Rain

Theatre, Musicals
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Singin' in the Rain
Photograph: Brian Geach

Even the rain can’t stop this bountiful tap-dancing beauty from glowing brightly in the streets

Anybody who has ever had a despondent moment or even a less-than-perfect afternoon will find joy and love across the board in this pleasant skip away to times gone past. Adapted from the 1952 film co-directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Singin’ in the Rain is a sunny twirl on the stage of early Hollywood lights. This latest production (which wowed West End audiences in 2012) is a brilliant and vibrant explosion of bliss, laughter and formidable tap skills. 

For the few in the room who have somehow managed not to see the classic film, Singin’ in the Rain follows silent film superstar Don Lockwood (Adam Garcia). For the first time, the crackly little voices of actors are bursting out of the screen, and the people are loving it. Unfortunately for Don, vaudevillian mime antics don’t seem to cut the cheese so smoothly anymore; it’s all about the “talkies” now, as Don and struggling ‘serious’ actor Kathy (Gretel Scarlett) are coming to realise. What’s a guy to do? He and his ol’ tap pal and pianist Cosmo (Jack Chambers) will have to pull up their drawers to keep in step, especially given that Don’s legendary co-star Lina Lamont (Erika Heynatz) has the voice of a screeching chalkboard, heretofore unheard by her adoring fans.

Director Jonathan Church spins this classic onto the stage so naturally and with such vibrant glee that only the especially hard of the heart will refrain from falling into its cheery, chirpy arms for the night. The show is bright and colourful in a thousand ways, yet despite all odds never quite turns to the twee side of things; it’s always sincere. The drama unfolds with a crisp lightness, moving in loving sweeps from funny to touching to charming.

A lot of credit for this goes to the hearty bond between lead actors Adam Garcia, Gretel Scarlett and Jack Chambers, whose relationships develop and hold firm with finesse and sweetness. Garcia may not be as alive in his performance as starlet-in-the-night-sky Scarlett and the astounding Chambers, but the three leads are a beautiful combination.

Adam Garcia in Singin' in the Rain

While Garcia is lacking power in his voice, he is nonetheless a pleasant tenor who plays well with less dynamic pieces. Gretel Scarlett shines in the vocal department as a tender-hearted talent, confidently leading the laughing frivolity of ‘Good Mornin’’ before bringing wistful wonder to her solo, ‘Would You?’.

In a tremendous calibre of supporting performance, Heynatz is thunderously hilarious as an on-the-out diva with the voice of a high-pitched seagull. Robyn Arthur, Mike Bishop and Rodney Dobson are also stellar as fiddle players of the Hollywood scene, and they command the stage in their respective roles with endless, graceful poise and sleek humour.

Andrew Wright’s choreography is perhaps the show’s greatest triumph. The complex duets and trios from the film transition well to large chorus numbers on stage. Garcia (who is an ex Tap Dog) shines brightest in the title song – but the stand-out dancer is the quick-stepping Jack Chambers. The So You Think You Can Dance winner also nails comic timing; his snap-of-the-fingers physical transformations in ‘Make ‘em ‘Laugh’ are stupidly funny. 

The original orchestration by Larry Wilcox and Larry Blank, a jazzy, foot-stomping frenzy, has been scooped up by Adrian Kirk’s capable dexterity as musical director. And a show like this, which lavishes in the simple joy of singing and dancing all the way down to the tips of your toes, gives plenty of opportunity for the light-hearted music to shine splendidly alongside smooth, beautiful and exciting bits of dance.

The design of the piece (Simon Higlett) is minimalistic and deliriously effective. Bright, bold colours frame the stage with elegance, and the studio set pieces and period ’20s costuming are finely detailed. And one must, fleetingly, mention the rain. Water – all 12,000 litres of recycled droplets – falls from above with a refreshing gleam in what is a very special nighttime dance scene. Kudos also to Tim Mitchell for a stunning, understated light design, and to Michael Waters for his flawless work as sound designer.

By: John Back

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