Everything about the show is extremely professional: The sets are superb, the lighting is excellent, and the costumes and props are perfect. The show-stopping tune, “Singin’ in the Rain” is so sensational that it’s worth going for that alone. By LESLEY STONES.
The musical Singin’ in the Rain has blown into Joburg and I forecast a good chance of showers, outbreaks of laughter and bright sunny smiles all round. It’s so good it will warm you from your silly grin right down to your tapping toes.
It’s a staged version of the classic 1952 MGM movie, a lovely comedy about Hollywood when silent movies were first finding their voice. There was a chance that a show with one iconic number would drag before or after that classic moment, but this production sparkles after the first few minutes and never lets up. And the show-stopping tune, “Singin’ in the Rain” is so sensational that it’s worth going for that alone. Yet, it froths and fizzes its way through several other great numbers and some hilarious dialogue too.
The production was created by the UK’s Chichester Festival Theatre and it’s manned by a South African cast that has already taken it to New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and Cape Town. It stars Grant Almirall as Don, the debonair film star who ends up boyishly swinging around a lamppost in the role made famous by Gene Kelly. Almirall recently played Frankie Valli in the Jersey Boys, and his voice and dancing remain superb. Bethany Dickson is also excellent as Kathy, the wannabe serious actress who scorns the silent movies, but quickly gets sucked into them as she falls for Don. Even more memorable is Steven van Wyk as Cosmo, the loveable clown of a friend who brings a delicious levity to his role, along with captivating moves.
The choreography by Andrew Wright is a highlight in itself, full of infectious comic touches as well as skill, at times free and flighty, other times sensual and mesmerising. Perhaps the best of all is Taryn-Lee Hudson as Lana Lamont, the silent screen hotty with the appalling voice that’s going to kill her career in the talkies. It must be immensely difficult to play as badly as Hudson plays, remembering to shriek with every sentence and ham it up horrendously. She is amazing, but just when you’re about to feel sorry for her, she unleashes those spiteful talons that her voice emulates with its nails-down-a-blackboard quality.
Some lovely video clips show us the movie that the cast is creating, using Kathy’s voice dubbed over Lina’s movements, and the result is hilarious. Everything about the show is extremely professional: the sets are superb, the lighting is excellent, and the costumes and props are perfect. The music enjoys the luxury of a live band led by Louis Zurnamer perched high above the action on stage.
In the second half you suspect they’re running out of plot – and they are, with Cosmo trying to suggest ideas to revive the floundering movie that they’re making. Cosmo gives his studio boss a couple of time-filling dance numbers, but dancer Mila de Biaggi performs so sensually in a louche Chicago-inspired routine that it’s another favourite part. Despite those various high points, nothing can surpass the key number. It’s no half-hearted little drizzle – this is solid rain with deep puddles and a fabulously lighthearted Almirall splashing and spooshing across the stage. If you don’t laugh with delight you deserve a dunking. It’s the ultimate feel-good show that makes you want to fall in love again. I forecast that there shouldn’t be an empty seat in the house. DM
Singin’ in the Rain runs at the Montecasino’s Teatro until March 13. Tickets from 011-511-1818 or www.computicket.com
All photos by Hagen Hopkins.