Gene Kelly’s stylish dancing in the MGM classic Singin’ in the Rain inspired director/choreographer David Atkins to become a professional dancer. It seems Atkins has been able to repay the debt, for his sense of delight is revealed in every aspect of this wonderful production.
Singin’ in the Rain, set in Hollywood during the transition from silent movies to the “talking pictures”, follows movie star Don Lockwood as he falls in love with aspiring actress Cathy Selden. Betty Comden and Adolf Green’s screenplay provides a plethora of comic situations and opportunities for the cast to burst into the marvellous songs of Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. The musical also showcases Gene Kelly’s extraordinary choreography in numbers such as the famous Broadway Melody Ballet.
I must admit I was sceptical about Atkins’ vision to produce a ‘faithful recreation’ of the choreography, costumes, set, and performance style of the famous movie. But this production succeeds in recreating the key ingredient of the film a sense of joy and transfers it to stage with theatricality and polish.
In particular the principals give a fresh, captivating emulation of the MGM stars’ performances. As Lockwood and his side-kick Cosmo, Todd McKenney and Wayne Scott Kermond capture the elegance and charm of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Most importantly, they succeed in playing to their audience. Scott Kermond’s comic virtuosity in “Make ’em Laugh” and McKenney’s stylish rendition of the famous title song has the audience eating out of their hands. Unfortunately an injured Racheal Beck is unable to perform the role of Cathy Selden in the first two weeks of the season but her understudy Pia Morley confidently fills her shoes. Morley’s effortless grace and lovely singing voice mark her as a talent to be watched. Jackie Love also shines as the screechy-voiced star of the silent screen, Lina Lamont, with a brash performance style and impeccable sense of comic timing.
At heart this is a Hollywood musical: full of over-the-top theatricality, spectacle and entertainment where everything is just an excuse for a song. The opening night audience was encouraged to interact in the performance and rewarded the performers with spontaneous applause and a standing ovation.
As you would expect of Atkins (one of the talents behind the Sydney Olympic opening ceremony), the show is technically flawless. Superb lighting illuminates automated sets as they whiz on and off stage, and the much hyped rain scene fulfils all expectations. The production’s costumes embrace the flamboyance of Hollywood musicals with bold colours, caricatured images and glamorous gowns. Unfortunately the costumes in the “Beautiful Girls” number err on the side of tacky, appearing oversized and awkward. (However they do improve when they light up!)
True to the spirit of the film without being predictable, this is one Hollywood musical not to be missed!