FOR weeks, parched Jo’burgers have been pleading: “Let it rain, let it rain.” And last weekend it did – in a theatre, on stage, bucketing down in front of almost 2,000 awestruck people grinning from ear to ear.
The rain came down, the umbrellas went up and the first three rows got merrily drenched as Grant Almirall, channelling a suave Gene Kelly, delivered the showstopper number during the inland premiere of the “splash” hit musical comedy Singin’ in the Rain.
It was sensational. Montecasino’s Teatro was suddenly awash with not just H2O, but ridiculously high levels of endorphins too. What a glorious feeling!
Splashing about in the puddles like a playful child high on life, Almirall and company injected much-needed happy vibes into an audience facing a new year filled, for many, with financial and political uncertainty.
And couldn’t we all do with a pick-me-up tonic? If you’re looking for unabashed escapism that will make you float, however fleetingly, on cloud nine, this is definitely the show to see.
And if you’re impressed by astonishingly high levels of technical proficiency and professional polish, then you have until March 13 to see this feel-good frolic flecked with nostalgia for a bygone era of Tinseltown magic.
Based on the 1952 classic MGM movie starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, Singin’ in the Rain has been adapted for the stage by the UK team of Jonathan Church and choreographer Andrew Wright.
With the original choreography and slapstick comedy routines faithfully recreated from the movie, it’s superb family entertainment and ideal date-night fare, though it does get a bit talky in parts, which may cause the attention of smaller tots to drift.
But the pulse-quickening clatter of tap-dancing feet, coupled with ebullient music and high jinks, ensures that this period musical is terrifically entertaining and bursting at the seams with joie de vivre — with absolutely zero forecast of “heavy” current affairs clouds.
The SA production, presented by Pieter Toerien, has spent months touring New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as Cape Town, so the company, live band and technical team are running like a well-oiled machine. Not even an unplanned power outage that delayed the opening-night performance could put a damper on their triumphant Gauteng debut.
The show is set in the silent era of Hollywood, in 1927. Don Lockwood (Almirall) and Lina Lamont (Taryn-Lee Hudson) are fêted as the golden couple of the silver screen, starring in a succession of production-line period bodice-rippers (albeit of the chaste variety). However, off-set they can’t stand each other.
But the success of the first “talkie” catches everyone off guard, and Monumental Studios head RF Simpson (James Borthwick) quickly scrambles to corral his two big stars into a talking picture. Small problem: Lina has a voice like a constipated banshee.
Enter Kathy Selden (Bethany Dickson), a struggling actress with a decidedly less fawning outlook on the whole fame and celebrity machine. After a rocky start, she and Don fall for each other — but she is forced to rescue his movie The Singing Cavalier after it becomes clear the film will flop if Lina gets to utter a syllable on screen. So the dulcet-toned Kathy agrees to step in as her “ghost voice” — but Lina is a lot shrewder than her platinum locks may suggest ...
There are some admirable performances, not least by the leads, Almirall and Dickson, both carrying through the exceptional form they displayed in leading roles in Jersey Boys (as Frankie Valli) and Sound of Music (Maria) respectively.
But this musical boasts particularly meaty supporting roles, and this is where Hudson and Steven van Wyk (as Lockwood’s cheery sidekick, Cosmo) completely steal the show with their hilarious cameo scenes.
For those worried that Singin’ in the Rain is a dusty period piece that’s only of interest to golden oldies who remember the original film, it’s anything but. With a whip-smart company, dazzling costumes, sumptuous sets and elevating show tunes that should strike a chord with any generation, this musical crackles with enough youthful zest and exuberant energy to power up every single generator in the Montecasino complex.
And in this era of Kardashians breaking the Internet, where your ability is often inversely proportional to the number of Twitter followers you can amass, the theme of artificial celebrity gloss versus genuine talent is surely as topical as ever.
• Postscript and trivia nugget: Every performance of Singin’ in the Rain uses — and recycles —12,000 litres of water