Singing In The RainLeft – Jack Chambers, Gretel Scarlett and Rohan Browne. Cover – the ensemble. Photos – Darren Thomas

When water pours from a giant showerhead and rain pounds the Lyric Theatre stage, it’s a significant moment. And yes commiserations are in order for those who occupied the seats in the front few rows, even if they wore the freebee ponchos. In the film released in 1952, the ‘Singing In The Rain’ sequence sung and danced by Gene Kelly was the stunning highlight, a legendary scene. But let’s come back to that.

The terrain is all glitz and glam undiluted showbiz. The plot, a spoof on the tetchy transition from Hollywood’s silent screen to the ‘talkies.’ Two celebrated stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are finding the transition to the talking picture a trial. Their formula doesn’t translate easily, especially, as Lamont’s speaking voice is heavily American and screechy, her vowels twisted and stretched to breaking point. And it grates on the ears. Just as grating is her fixation on Lockwood as her next husband.

Cosmo, Lockwood’s confidante and musical director, struggles to find a lateral solution. Speech therapy with Ms Lamont proves unsuccessful. One night, Lockwood is in the park, mooning about his predicament and the troubled star is charmed by Kathy Selden, the archetypal, sweeter-than-sweet girl next door, herself a talented wannabe who piques Lockwood’s interest by giving him a scathing summary of acting in silent films.

The Lyric was packed with all ages and the vivid, zany costumes, spectacular dance routines, sparkling scenery, most, if not all of the singing and a buffed and polished, super-rehearsed, triple threat cast makes even the most hardened spectator smile. And there’s not a chance to switch off, because the pace is all ‘slam, bam and thank you Mam,’ which leaves the audience almost as breathless as the give-it-your-all professionals.

Those who have seen the original film will remember the marvel of impossibly drilled dance, but, it pays to remember when watching the three stageplay heroes dance ‘Good Morning,’ that unlike Debbie Reynolds, Kelly and Donald O’Connor who spent excessive, feet-shredding hours filming a superlative take, Rohan Browne as Lockwood, Gretel Scarlett as Kathy and Jack Chambers as Cosmo have to do it right on the spot and this spectacular routine with a wow ending takes the breath away.

Jack Chambers, makes a great slapstick, fall on the back clown and is the doppelganger of O’Connor who played Cosmo in the film. Browne as Lockwood recalls Kelly, Gretel Scarlett as Kathy Selden is believably sugary and oh so charming. Erika Heynatz is a hoot as bitchy superstar Lina Lamont, but her drawled nasal accent renders her lines occasionally unclear. But, she does a glorious irritant.

Congratulations to the producer, director, choreographer, lighting, costume and musical chiefs and cast because this feel-good theatre is surprisingly entertaining in these short attention span, social media, crime show and reality TV saturated days. The triple threat talent strikes hard and the dancing from Charleston to tap is sublime. Nadia Coote’s ‘Broadway Ballet Girl’ number is an unforgettably skilled scorcher.

Now, there’s a gripe or two, churlish perhaps, but when the action arrives at that famed rainy spill even though Browne sings the title song while he spins splashes and tap dances for Australia – and makes a good fist of it – it’s a huge ask and doesn’t really work and in a show which scarcely puts a foot wrong, it’s a bit of an anti-climax. Perhaps having another sing it while Browne dances would do the trick?

And yet, in the nick of time, a chorus of high octane, kicking-to-the-moon dancers in fringe-swinging gear and umbrellas in a spin, rescue the moment. The singing is undercooked at times but hey, that’s greedy considering the show whisks the audience into a frothy, frenzied appreciation. This is populist fun. Guaranteed to lift everyone’s spirits.

Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Michael Cassel Group, David Atkins Enterprises and Dainty Group International present
based on the classic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film

Directed by Jonathan Church

Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC | corner of Grey and Melbourne Streets, South Bank, Brisbane
Dates: from 22 September 2016
Bookings: | phone 136-246.

Gillian Wills is the author of ‘Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken ex-racehorse rescue each other,’ Finch and writes for Australian Stage Online, Limelight Magazine, The Australian, Courier Mail and Townsville Bulletin as well as Cut Common, ArtsHub and Loudmouth.

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