The success of Singing in the Rain’ is its mix of homage, iconic film moment re-creation – it really rains! – and a sprinkle of surprising original moments.
Jonathan Church’s UK production moved from The Chichester Festival Theatre to the West End in 2012 and was a hit. Church is also the new Artistic Director of the Sydney Theatre Company and – even though this is a re-mount – it’s a good opportunity to see what might be in store for Sydney.
It’s a theatre musical based on the 1952 Hollywood musical film set in Hollywood in the 1920s when talkies are introduced. Silent stars Don Lockwood (Adam Garcia) and Lina Lamont (Erika Heynatz) are in trouble because Lina doesn’t sound as smooth as she looks, so Lockwood and his best friend Cosmo (Jack Chambers) scheme to dub her voice with that of Lockwood’s new love Kathy (Gretel Scarlett).
It has been taken off the screen and made to feel like it belongs on a stage. Andrew Wright’s choreography winks at the 1920s, embraces the ensemble identity of screen musicals from the 40s and 50s, but feels new; Simon Higlett’s design has fun with the 1920s while showing how the same styles could be worn today; the newly-filmed screen scenes feel like being in the cinema in the 1920s; and the rain is so spectacular that the front rows are supplied with plastic ponchos.
The ensemble are a consistent treat and Scarlett, Heynatz and Chambers bring enough joy to their characters to let them love being who they are. They are rarely matched by Garcia, who shows little more than the Lockwood’s superficiality.
There’s plenty to love about this expensive production. Resources create spectacle, but it doesn’t bring a contemporary or even a fresh vision to the story.
The old men slap women’s bottoms and expect – and get – a laugh, the women are cast based on height and size, the men are cast based on height and size, the puddles left by the rain are deeper than the characters; and the inevitable happy ending is based on a woman being a bitch. For everything that’s wonderful about it, it still feels as dated and dull as its pie-in-the-face gag.