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Singin' In The Rain at Lyric Theatre

Home > Sydney > Theatre Reviews | Theatre | Musicals | Music | Comedy
by Adrian Kmita (subscribe)
Writer and Osteopath. A Sydneysider traveling the world solving life's puzzles. instagram.com/AdrianKmita
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The classic Hollywood musical splashes its way LIVE on stage
Grant Almirall as Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Grant Almirall as Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

The dreary wet weather season has splashed its way across Sydney once again this week, and while it has placed many Sydneysiders in a mopey disposition, it may prove to be a wonderful omen for the Dainty Group and their latest stage spectacular. Working in conjunction with the Lunchbox Theatrical Productions team, the group has produced an adaptation of the beloved musical comedy Singin' In The Rain, which is due to entertain Sydney audiences for a limited run at The Star casino's Lyric Theatre from July 7th.

Grant Almirall as Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Grant Almirall as Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

The theatrical production is based on the classic 1952 film of the same name, starring quintessential song and dance man Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor. The story depicts the dawn of the golden age of Hollywood following the infamous release of The Jazz Singer in 1927. The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson was a phenomenon, ushering in the era of the "talkies" and relegating silent films into extinction. In the wake of this revolutionary transition are silent film stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont. They are not only the darlings of the Monumental Pictures studio, but are also seen as Hollywood's "it" couple much to the delight of Lamont and to the disdain of Lockwood. In the midst of this adversity and at the risk of becoming irrelevant, Lockwood and his partner in crime Cosmo Brown conjure a plan to create a song and dance extravaganza for the silver screen.

Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

There is only one problem. Lina Lamont can't sing. Not only can she not sing, but she perhaps has one of the most irritating speaking voices to have ever been heard across America. This is only matched by Lamont's painful personality and abrasive nature. Calamity ensues as Don and Cosmo weigh up their options as the studio is determined to keep the successful onscreen duo of Lockwood and Lamont together. In a convenient turn of events Lockwood discovers sassy performer and young ingenue Kathy Selden. The two hit it off, as Lockwood and Cosmo come up with a plan for Kathy to dub Lamont's voice for the one off picture, ensuring Selden's future super-stardom and solving their tremendous predicament. The ambitious Lamont however has other ideas, soon discovering their plan as well as holding the studio and Selden's contract to ransom in her raging desire to maintain her status and position at the top.

Gretel Scarlett in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Gretel Scarlett in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

While Singin' In The Rain is a welcome addition to the Sydney musical theatre landscape, it does reinforce Sydney's extremely troubling habit of late, continually regurgitating a chorus line of productions that seem to resemble a revolving door of recognisable intellectual property at the sacrifice of quality and substance. Perhaps it is only a form of risk aversion in Sydney's complicated theatrical marketplace. In reality though, it is more to do with a complete misunderstanding of the Sydney theatre going audience. This incredibly strange habit of thinking is all the more puzzling considering the plethora of Tony Award winning Broadway productions yet to make their way to Australian shores. While Sydney has been privileged in recent times to witness Cameron Mackintosh's stellar production of Les MisÚrables, the theatre marketplace as a whole has been void of any real quality worthy of a standing ovation.

Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

Even though the impending arrival of The Book of Mormon and the current run of Kinky Boots in Melbourne may rectify this trend, the remedy has undoubtedly come far too late. Other recent Tony Award winning Broadway productions such a Pippin come to mind as worth exploring, especially considering Australia's fascination with Cirque du Soleil. The musical theatre industry has always been about taking risks on the voyage to ultimate acclaim and glory, which is something that Sydney musical theatre productions have clearly forgot. However in spite of these facts, if there was any classic movie that was destined to be adapted for the stage, it is undeniably Singin' In The Rain. The film's sensational set pieces, grandiose dance numbers and addictive melodies were primarily staged for one camera, effectively making the story a Broadway show on film. It is a wonder why Singin' In The Rain hasn't featured on the Australian musical theatre stage much sooner. While the production has not yet had a revival on Broadway, the show has had a relatively successful revival on London's West End.

Grant Almirall as Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Grant Almirall as Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

The Sydney production stars Grant Almirall as Don Lockwood, who has graciously taken over from Adam Garcia who was injured during the production in Melbourne. This is in fact a more than worthy upgrade for Sydney audiences, with Garcia perhaps lacking the vocal ability required of the role. Almirall's musical theatre resume is stellar, featuring in a number of Andrew Lloyd Webber productions as well as starring in the South African production of Jersey Boys as Frankie Valli. He is also just fresh off his international run as Don Lockwood in the international tour of Singin' In The Rain across South Africa and Asia. However while Almirall is serviceable in the role, he does seem to lack the level of gravitas and charisma left in the void of Gene Kelly's cinematic performance. This is through no fault of his own. Gene Kelly was one of a kind, and they just don't make song and dance men like they used to. An unfortunate byproduct of this void is an overwhelming desire from the theatregoer seeking more out of the performance, which never quite makes it to the audience's subconscious.

Grant Almirall as Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Grant Almirall as Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

The incredibly irritating role of Lina Lamont is filled by the charismatic presence of Erika Heynatz. While she is well cast as the manipulative and conniving silent film star, she again lacks the aura and subtle nuances that film actress Jean Hagen brought to the role in the classic 1952 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film. There are situations with character interpretation where it can be a welcome change to experience variation. On this particular occasion however, the direction of the character and the performance do fall below the enormous expectation. Some theatregoers may also feel the role was purely cast for the perceived element of name recognition as opposed to the appropriateness for the role.

Gretel Scarlett as Kathy Selden in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Gretel Scarlett as Kathy Selden in Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

The infectiously charismatic composer Cosmo Brown is played by Australian dance extraordinaire Jack Chambers. The performer's amazing dance credentials are undeniable, being the original winner of So You Think You Can Dance back in 2008. In a poetic turn of events he has come full circle, returning to the role he played in his first amateur theatrical production as a child. Chambers perhaps has the most difficult of all tasks in the show, and that is filling the enormous shoes left in the wake of Donald O'Connor's highly enthusiastic film performance. While Chamber's dance choreography is sensational, his immensely admirable attempt at emanating the legacy left by O'Connor falls a little short. Chambers' dance numbers are close to being on par, however the glowing personality and comedic timing that O'Connor provided are difficult to find in this production's incarnation of the Cosmo character.

Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

Gretel Scarlett's portrayal of Kathy Selden is the saving grace of the production. While she doesn't emulate the famous performance of Debbie Reynolds, she does make the role of Kathy Selden her own, emanating a unique vivacious personality that is incredibly easy to admire. She also more than keeps up with Almirall and Chambers during her plethora of difficult dance numbers, with the only difference being that she does it all in heels. It has to be said that Gretel Scarlett definitely has a long career ahead of her, whether it be on the musical theatre stages in Australia or possibly other stages around the world.

Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

The shows major selling point is the twelve thousand or so litres of recycled water that are utilised to simulate the famous Gene Kelly "Singin' In The Rain" dance sequence. Not only does the sequence feature falling rain, but it also utilises a unique mechanism that allows the stage to fill with water. Similar techniques are regularly used in Las Vegas for popular water shows such as Cirque du Soleil's "O" and Le Reve at the Wynn resort and casino. The entertaining scene in the Sydney show is definitely majestic, and allows for special audience involvement if theatregoers choose to purchase tickets within the special "splash zone".

Cast of Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre
Cast of Singin' in the Rain at Lyric Theatre

Overall, the Sydney stage production of Singin' In The Rain is worth taking in for those who absolutely admire the 1952 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film. While the show doesn't live up to the hype, it undeniably has strong moments and some admirable performances. The Australian production does feel slightly inauthentic at times, due to unusual production choices as well as the cast's inability to encapsulate what made the original film famous in the first place. The story of Singin' In The Rain is quintessentially American, symbolising not only the transition from silent films to "talkies", but also Hollywood's golden age of cinema where entertainment and charisma were the primary components. The stage production doesn't totally incorporate these ideals, with the show lacking the musical theatre pizzazz, gigantic set pieces and larger than life personalities that these days seem to be only found on Broadway. Despite these issues, the musical is an enjoyable night out provided that audience expectations are not too high.

For further information and tickets, visit the Singin' in the Rain website at Singin.com.au. Ticket prices start at $76.



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*Adrian Kmita was invited as a guest
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Why? One of Hollywood's all time favourite musicals live on stage.
When: Playing in Sydney from July 7th.
Website: singin.com.au
Where: Sydney Lyric Theatre at The Star casino.
Cost: Tickets are available from $76.
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