Mikey Halcrow brings the amazing Donald O'Connor to life as he sings and acts his way through the greater hits of the original Cosmo in Singin' In The Rain. Always destined to be the sidekick to romantic leads such as Gene Kelly, O'Connor had a tap dancing genius and a work ethic of almost superhuman proportions. 70 movies, 50 television shows, and 11 stage productions later O'Connor finally stopped performing in 1997 although he continued to make public appearances until his death in 2003 at the age of 79.
Together with his own sidekick Mo (Jens Radda) on piano, Halcrow takes us through the life story of this phenomenal performer. Beginning with O'Connor's big break at age 12 in the Bing Crosby movie of the same name, Halcrow produces a rousing performance of 'Sing You Sinners' which sets us up for a night of high energy and excellent interpretations of the material.
It was clever and essential that this be a two man show and director Nick Eynaud uses both Radda and Halcrow cleverly to enhance strengths and hide weaknesses. Initially, Radda seems to simply be the repetiteur providing musical accompaniment for Halcrow and acting as O'Connor's muse. As the show progresses though, he is revealed to be O'Connor's avatar, always playing the sidekick to Halcrow's leading man. This is a very similar technique used recently in Finucane and Smith's The Exotic Lives Of Lola Montez and it is just and effective.
As much as the show is meant to honour O'Connor, it also inadvertently shows how unfortunate O' Connor was to be performing in an era of performance genius. With tap dancing as good as Gene Kelly's and comic physicality as good as Danny Kaye's he suffered the unfortunate fate of many all rounders - the fate of the gap filler. Getting stuck playing opposite the world's most popular ass (Francis the talking mule) also didn't help.
O'Connor sang and danced in an era where not only the dancing was fine, but the song lyrics were their own genius and acrobatic feats as well. 'Make 'Em Laugh' the song is a perfect example and the night is a great chance to hear and (if you're brave) sing along to these wonderful classic moments. Halcrow isn't quite vocally up to the gymnastics required and I was disappointed to not see tap dancing, but both Radda and Halcrow have the comic genius and chemistry to get away with the show. From the moment Halcrow invites Radda to pour himself a bottle of scotch, they settle us into the attitude and atmosphere of the times.
Make 'Em Laugh: The Untold Donald O'Connor Story is a wonderfully nostalgic journey back to some of the cleverest comedy to come out of America and an era where performers really had skills! The cocktail of the week at The Butterfly Club also gets us in the mood with a Scotch and Brandy blend which delights and begins our journey back in time to the golden era of Hollywood.