The 1952 smash hit tongue in cheek penultimate American iconic musical comedy Singin’ in The Rain, is one of the few movies I know of, which has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Singin’ in the Rain is from a book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with luscious lyrics by Arthur Freed, and marvellous music by Nacio Herb Brown. It tells the story of a time when Hollywood movies finally found their voice and left the world of silent movies behind.
Despite being only nine years old, I remember its early 1950’s release well, attending its debut at the Boomerang Picture Theatre at Coogee Beach in Sydney with my family.
A movie about making one of the first ‘sound movie’s, Singin’ in the Rain was a great favourite with so many people, because following the privations of World War II, it was fresh, fun, exciting, uplifting, light hearted and happy.
My father and mother loved it so much we all went back the next night to see it again, a rare phenomenon in our household.
When it was all over I remember all I wanted to do was pull on my tap shoes and dance.
Favourite Hollywood stars of the time Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor pushed the dancing routines to a physical brink of excellence.
A 19 year old Hollywood hopeful Debbie Reynolds, who had to learn to dance for the movie, kept up with them both gloriously.
My companion and I certainly felt like dancing down the street after stepping out of Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne recently, when on a balmy night everyone, except perhaps the people in the front row of our preview, welcomed the ‘splash hit on stage live musical version of Singin’ in The Rain to town.
Ponchos were handed out to help keep them dry as Don, Cosmo and Kathy, together with the whole cast danced up a storm in real rain.
Fabulous choreography, a great ensemble cast, with sensational sets and superb costumes, as well as the exhilarating spectacle of over 12,000 litres of recycled rainwater live on stage, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Michael Cassel Group, David Atkins Enterprises and Dainty Group International are producing the musical in Australia.
Directed by Jonathan Church, with Choreography by Andrew Wright, Design by Simon Higlett and Lighting by Tim Mitchell, songs like Good Morning, Make ‘em Laugh, All I Do is Dream of You, Moses Supposes and You Were Meant for Me, pulsed with all the life and love in the room, and there was a great deal of that to go around.
Adam Garcia, features as Don Lockwood and when he crooned “I’ve a smile on my face” while Singin in the Rain, we had one on ours too. The standing ovation at the end of the show was extremely well deserved because the audience really all had a jolly good time, as did the cast.
They presented ‘a total celebration of song and dance’, leaving us all with a ‘glorious feeling’.
So much fun was had by all, especially when viewing the ‘black and white’ movies. They were projected onto screens lowered for the audience and to my mind, they were perhaps even better than the originals!
The famous crashing ‘pearl sequence’, and the scene where the director is trying to have Lina ‘talk’ into the microphone at first in a bush, in her bosom and on her shoulder, had everyone rolling in the aisles all over again. Didn’t matter how much you had seen it before.
Onstage the musical followed the movie faithfully, with the Gene Kelly role of Don Lockwood played by Adam Garcia, who rose to fame in Australia in the 1990s as the star of Hot Shoe Shuffle and later Tap Dogs, shows that I enjoyed way back then.
Garcia has since enjoyed great success while based in London for the past 22 years, with recent West End roles in the musical Kiss Me Kate and alongside Dame Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.
Don Lockwood was a role Gene Kelly made his own; suave, debonair, urbane, sophisticated and smooth and every inch a movie star until he and his ‘ego’ is ‘cut down’ to size when he meets a ‘slip of a girl’ Kathy Selden while fleeing his fans.
While Adam Garcia is a true ‘star’ and remains a crowd pleaser, his fitness level was worrying and personally I couldn’t help but wish he’d ‘hammed’ it up just a tad more, although it didn’t seem to detract from everyone else’s enjoyment.
When the show opens Dora Bailey a Hollywood Gossip Reporter, veteran hoofer Robyn Arthur, having a whale of a time, is outside Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese theatre interviewing Don and we find out he wouldn’t have made it except for his friend since childhood days, Cosmo Brown.
Cosmo and Don were both ‘fit as a fiddle and ready for love’ singing in vaudeville when it was dying, and so they headed for Hollywood to see how they would make it in the movies.
Don ends up a star and Cosmo as the head of music at Monumental Pictures.
Jack Chambers nearly steals the show as Cosmo, what a talent!
His pedigree is pretty impressive too… especially since winning So You Think You Can Dance 2008, Jack has lived and worked in New York City.
His Make ‘Em Laugh had the Melbourne audience virtually ‘rolling in the aisles’.
My companion and I however thought that in comedic terms he also had some pretty stiff competition from Erika Heynatz as the dizzy dame Lina Lamont.
She is just brilliant as the woman who believes she is a dazzling star in the Hollywood firmament, adoring fame and adulation. The thing is she doesn’t care who she crawls over to claim it.
A harridan from hell, Lina has that one great drawback, a nasally rasping voice with less than dulcet vocal tones, making her an unlikely candidate for ‘talking pictures’.
Erika Heynatz is more than equal to the task, outplaying the original star of the movie Jean Hagen as Lina the vapid snake in the grass…
… the delicious tar, tay, the, to, too sequence reminded me of my own elocution lessons, which became all the rage at the time.
Gretel Scarlett as Kathy Selden is truly all delight. She is definitely all ‘sweet things’ rolled up in one and she can dance and sing as well. Loved her version of the jumping out of the cake ‘All I do is Dream of You’ sequence.
Moses Supposes the song that came out of Don’s elocution lessons, is one of my favourite songs in the film. The trio of Don, Cosmo and Jan di Pietro as the elocution teacher, made us all cheer.
The ‘Broadway Melody’ sequence with its own ‘Cyd Charisse’ look alike was yet another visual treat.
The ensemble cast are all clearly having the time of their lives singing all the movie’s most well known numbers, tap dancing furiously while wearing stylish and very colourful 50’s costumes.
The creatives did a great job; along with the cast they made everyone watching exceedingly happy.
We just loved it and afterwards, everyone was clamouring to own a silver umbrella with a colourful lining! Sales should go through the roof!
What more can we say except there was no rain about to dampen our spirits when we rolled back onto the street after the show, although a chill had replaced the former balmy night, one full of expectation the cast and crew of this deservedly hit musical more than fulfilled.
As it starts its Australian Tour 2016, Singin’ in the Rain will be sure run to packed out audiences at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne during its season here and so if you choose to be in the front row, be prepared!
Me, well I won’t stop singing those terrific tunes for weeks now and I am glad I have a wooden floor under my feet at my computer. All the better to hear my tap shoes on!
4/5 although in so many respects, 5/5
Get out your tap or toe shoes, take the whole family and go!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
Sydney from July 7, Brisbane from 22 September, Adelaide from 1 December and Perth from 29 December, 2016