Theatre review

Review: Singin’ in the Rain soaks audience in delight and laughter

Beloved movie has been transformed into a live song and dance spectacular that adds up to pure stage wonder

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 11:55am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 11:55am

This sparkling stage adaptation of Singin’ in the Rain didn’t efface the memory of the classic musical film, but live performers and splashing water made for a joyous evening.

Starting with a brisk backflip in the first scene, the  show was hopping all night. The audience already knew the songs, story and gags, more or less, but the surprises and jolts of delight kept coming.

The staging was a marvel of effortless scene changes from indoors to outdoors, onstage to backstage, a mogul’s office to Broadway dance-number fantasy-land. There was plenty of shtick   as actors gleefully  tossed props,  ducked swinging boards and  got their feet stuck in buckets.

The wacky story of silent screen star  Lina Lamont (fabulously overacted by  Taryn-Lee Hudson) with a voice too hideous for talkies has no redeeming social value or current resonance but makes a great excuse for singing and dancing.

The choreography, from pirouettes to tap dancing, showed off the dancers’ effervescent energy. The singers, especially main characters  Don Lockwood (played by  Grant Almirall) and  Kathy Seldon  (Bethany  Dickson), had sweet, affecting voices, preferable to brassy Broadway belting. The production was created by the  Chichester Festival Theatre, and is directed by  Jonathan Church.

Moses Supposes, a funny spoof of vocal coaching, made a brilliant tap-and-patter number as performed by Almirall, Kenneth Meyer as the coach, and Steven van Wyk as   Cosmo Brown.

The black and white film-within-a-show was clever and hilarious, both with the original screechy voice of Hudson and with overdubbing by the nightingale-voiced Dickson. Dickson sang Broadway Melody with simplicity and touching warmth. However, Broadway Rhythm was a bit of a letdown – it didn’t have the true American bounce.

The Make ’Em Laugh sequence was a good try but it was a lampoon too far – van Wyk burst through a paper wall that came apart in neat squares. If this was supposed to top the film version, it didn’t work for me.

The title song, done with water slowly rising onstage as  rain gushed from the ceiling, was captivating. The audience oohed as the splashes got bigger and the front rows got soaked. When the company joined in with multi-coloured umbrellas and the audience clapped in rhythm, everything added up to pure stage wonder.

The audience walked out into a Hong Kong rainstorm, presumably much more attuned to the delights of  puddles.

Singin’ in the Rain, Lyric Theatre, HK Academy for Performing Arts. Reviewed October 3