Thursday, 21 January 2016 16:49

Singin' in the rain

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The Singing in the Rain - South Africa production on at The Pieter Toerien Theatre The Singing in the Rain - South Africa production on at The Pieter Toerien Theatre Pictures supplied by The Teatro

Singin' in the Rain is widely regarded as one of the best musicals of all time - and not just for its toe-tapping tunes. It was also a fascinating insight into the history of the silver screen, the transition between the silent era and the "talkies" and was the MGM production of all time (even if the lead song was taken over in a sinister context by A Clockwork Orange).

The Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds song and dance act is a very tough act to follow - especially when the movie is translated on to the stage! But comparing the celluloid version to the stage theatre is, as ever, an impossibility.

Pieter Toerien knows exactly what local audiences want and has staged some fine musical productions at the Teatro; ergo the current stage production at The Teatro in Montecasino is a perfect translation of this wonderful show, taking it to a whole new level.

South Africa is not short of talent in the theatrical department, and with the direction of Alan Rickman lookalike Jonathan Church, the artistic director of Chicester Festival Theatre in the UK, the cast has produced a Singin' in the Rain to knock your socks off.

Eskom tried its level best to throw a spanner in the works by staging its own blockbuster production at the start of the first act. As the lights died the audience groaned sympathetically and the cast was forced to retreat backstage while the generator kicked in and the lighting technicians fiddled with the spotlight. The only light came from cellphones and tablets, no doubt posting on social media about their devilish electricity non-provider.

But the performers bravely improvised. Anne Power's lovely character Dora re-introduced the main characters, as Grant Almirall's Don Lockwood arrived in a blaze of lights and a long Gene Kelly raincoat.

From then on the performance was flawless and the audience swept up in their favourite number. This show has some of the catchiest songs around, and "Siiiiingin' in the Rain/just siiiingin' in the Rain, What a glorious Feeeeeling/I'm Happy Again" is going to be something we are going to be humming for a while, along with "Good Morning" and "All I Do".

Of course, "Make Em Laugh" is supposed to be wholesale plagiarism of Cole Porter's "Be a Clown" while "Moses Supposes" was the only original number in the whole musical score (just a bit of theatre trivia for you).

My favourite character both in the movie and the stage production has to be Lina Lamont and Taryn-Lee Hudson made a simply wonderful and suitably screechy Lina. Sometimes she did get a little too screechy and her words were lost but her "and I cen't steayend him" was sheer brilliance as was her Dancing Cavalier performance and dubbing by Bethany Dickson.

What I particularly loved about the production was the fact it was performed like a dance number throughout. In the movie Donald O'Connor out rivalled Dick van Dyke in his india rubber moves but the dance scenes were mostly reserved for Gene Kelly's Broadway Ballet.

The most anticipated scene was the performance of Singin' In the Rain itself, and the first three rows were equipped with plastics macs for just that eventuality. We were not disappointed - not only was the number performed by Don Lockwood/Grant Almirall solo in the First Act, but the entire cast made a big splash (literally) as the finale to the second act. The media were safely ensconsed in the top gallery, away from any "rain" but watched in fascination as many men with many mops cleaned the stage vigorously at interval after it was flooded.

OK, ok, no more spoiler alerts for anyone wanting to head off to see the show!

This show was high octane, high kicking and just what was promised - a 100 percent forecast of fun. It is the perfect introduction to the new year, after the grand finale of Swan Lake on Ice last year (another superb show, on at the Artscape on January 31).

 

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