Saturday, 6 October 2001

Singing in the Rain, Oct 6, 2001

 by Betty Comden and Stanley Donen music by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Venue: Regent Theatre Collins Street, Oct 6, 2001 until....?
Producer: RSL Com
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The opening night crowd at the Regent Theatre burst into spontaneous applause as the onstage rain fell from the theatrical sky. My witty guest quipped, “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen an audience applaud plumbing.”

It is spectacular plumbing and what fun to see water soaking Todd McKenney’s perfectly gelled hair as he kicks water at the front row. The miniature brollies prvided were no protection.The finale has the entire cast in Paddington Bear yellow macs under big yellow umbrellas.

 “Gotta dance” is exactly how that toe-tappin’ number, Singing in the Rain, makes one feel. David Atkins with stars McKenney, Rachel Beck, Wayne Scott Kermond and Jackie Love provide us with a welcome relief from the trials of the ravaged real world.

It is a boy meets girl tale. Vaudevillian makes good in silent movies.When the first talkie changes the face of movie making forever, his career is in jeopardy.

McKenny is charming in the lead as Don Lockwood, the role made famous in the film by Gene Kelly. McKenney is all delightful teeth and smiles, dancing like a 40s hoofer.

There are moments when his singing is not note-perfect,  but Gene Kelly was no Pavarotti. McKenney is a musical theatre star since his success in Boy from Oz.

As his onstage love interest,  Rachael Beck has plenty of voice and talent to burn in the role of the pert wannabe actress, Kathy Seldon. Her solo, You Are My Lucky Star, was superb.

A major drawcard is the recognition factor. We recognise Kelly’s exceptional choreography and many songs and scenes from the movie.

Wayne Scott Kermond’s  plays Don’s vaudeville partner, Cosmo Brown, Donald O’Connor’s role.   Kermond is a skilful, seasoned and lively music theatre performer. With Atkins,he recreates the  ‘climb the wall’ dance sequence, sending the audience into paroxysms.

The “Good Morning” routine  is another recognised number in which the trio dance over the back of a couch. We sing along with Make ‘Em Laugh, Beautiful Girls, Broadway Melody and the classic word play song, Moses Supposes.

What is less successful is the slapstick and clowning. None of the three leads is a natural clown so the comedy often feels manufactured.

Which brings us to the crunch. This production feels tired. It is flat and at times lacks the intense energy required to make this kind of huge, light entertainment work at optimum level. Perhaps six months running in Sydney, getting soaked every night, has worn the cast out sooner than expected. It needs an injection of high octane pep juice.

Jackie Love’s bimbo, Lina Lamont, is a highlight. She squeaks as the vengeful, stupid silent movie actress whose shrill voice is unsuited to talkies. Her solo, What’s Wrong With Me, is sparkling, vivacious and hilarious.

Another high point was Sheree da Costa’s fantasy scene. Her dance is is sexy, lyrical and provocative.

The designers and technicians are also stars. Michael Anania’ s  set creates miniature versions of New York cityscapes and Trudy Dalgliesh’s  lighting is evocative and is echoed by whimsical fairy lights on headdresses in Paula Ryan’s wild 20s costumes.

Conrad Helfrich’s musical direction is well-supported by the band of seventeen.

This show is all bells and whistles. Take a break from your real life.

By Kate Herbert

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