Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen and released in 1952, Singin’ In The Rain is arguably the greatest musical film of all time. Featuring some of the silver screen’s most memorable show tunes, The Singin’ In The Rain film has been lauded for generations, and is even this writer’s favorite movie musical. There are many challenges to staging this musical, and dancing in puddles of water is the very least of them. When your show has so much to live up to, and your leads have to perform at the same level as Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor, there is so much at stake. So does Singin’ In The Rain fulfill expectations set by it’s 63 year old predecessor?
Two months prior to opening night, members of the press had a look at one of the show’s most iconic numbers: Good Morning. In this scene, the three leads perform an exhausting number, and the term triple threat is never more appropriate. Performed by Grant Almirall (as Don Lockwood), who bears an uncanny resemblance to Gene Kelly, Bethany Dickson (as Kathy Selden), and Steven van Wyk (as Cosmo Brown), the number had just as much tapping, singing, and joy as the film. The excitement was substantial, and it was incredible, to think that this was only one of the many demanding numbers in the show.
Opening night came, the lights dimmed, and the show began. The Theatre has a policy to only allow latecomers 8 minutes into the show, but many were being brought to their seats over the course of the entire first act. I was definitely vexed by this, and can only imagine how the performers felt, as it isn’t easy to put on a show like that, especially when people are moving about only a few feet away from you. I hope Solaire addresses this problem soon, as occurrences only detract from the audience’s experience.
Majority of the set remains affixed for the entirety of the show, with the exception of some large set pieces that change in between scenes. This is compensated by the scores of dazzling props in various numbers, including a plane, sparkling marquees, and of course, rain. With music by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, and choreography by Gene Kelly, the film’s numbers are nothing short of incredible, and the show is no different. Nowadays, we’ve come to expect a lot from musicals; the Filipino audience expects spectacle more than anything else, and Singin’ has no shortage of spectacle. In a rather lengthy number (Broadway Ballet), Don and Company perform a medley of dances, including ballet and tap. It’s one of the most spectacular numbers, and the sparkling marquees only help in escalating the beauty of the scene. In Beautiful Girl, Kathy and the show girls dance atop the wings of a massive plane, which rolls out onto the stage. The highlight of the show, has Don, in full suit and tie, singing and dancing (you guessed it) in the rain. Before the show, I was told that 12,000 litters of water were used in each performance, but nothing prepared me for how much rain there was. It just did not stop. As Don frolics, he kicks up a storm, showering the front rows with water, and the entire audience with pure delight.
To my slight disappointment, I discovered that Grant Almirall wouldn’t be playing Don Lockwood, and later learned that he had an injury which prevented him from performing. Needless to say, I have nothing but respect for anyone who can perform a major role in a musical, and even more so for those who dare to take on roles such as the leads in the show. Having said that, Duane Alexander (Don Lockwood alternate and dance captain) was underwhelming in the role. A true triple threat in every sense of the word, he can act, sing and dance, but lacked the Don Lockwood charm, and in some scenes, it was hard to tell him apart from the rest of the ensemble. Steven van Wyk was a great Cosmo Brown and stole every scene he was in, but Make ‘Em Laugh, one of the numbers I was looking forward to the most, while indeed entertaining, did not live up to expectations. Bethany Dickson is the show’s brightest star, and her Kathy Selden is absolutely magnetic. Taryn-Lee Hudson was the show’s comedic highlight, and was hilarious as the whiny Lina Lamont.
Strangely, much of the show’s humor feels very dated, which is not at all the case with the film. The show has more than it’s fair share of big, extravagant numbers, each one unfailing in their ability to fascinate the audience. However, it’s biggest downfall is in the moments between those numbers, as the show tends to drag on when it doesn’t dazzle. There are segments in the show wherein projections are shown to the audience, with nothing else occurring onstage. Now the answer to the question I posed early on in this review. No, Singin’ does not live up to the standards set by the film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good show. Whether you’d like to bring back the childhood memories of watching the film, or are a child witnessing it for the first time, seeing Singin’ In The Rain is a delight, and probably the only time you’ll be happy about the rain. -ACA
The show will run at The Theatre Solaire until September 6. Have you seen the show? What did you think?