September 11, 2015
When the foreign touring production of "Singin' in the Rain" opened at the Theater at Solaire last August 20, I was not convinced I wanted to see it. I loved the classic 1952 film starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds this show was based on. However, I was not so sure I would really enjoy it that much as a live show.
So many factors were working against it. The material felt dated, a real throwback. The tickets are very expensive, P6,000+ for the front rows. The weather is so unpredictable with the sudden strong thunderstorms causing flash floods. The traffic situation this month in the city was uncommonly horrendous.
However, things changed this very weekend that the show was closing its run. First, they announced a very generous 50% discount off the ticket prices! Secondly, the weather this Friday late afternoon was very good, with no storms predicted for the rest of the evening. Thirdly, for some inexplicable reason, there were no monster traffic jam anywhere along the route to Manila. That convinced me, I was going to watch this show.
Since I was not sure of the weather and traffic, I did not buy the tickets in advance unlike other shows before. When we reached the box office, we saw there were still two seats left in the fourth row, albeit they were on the extreme right of the stage. We chose to buy those two to be near their so-called "splash zone". The "splash zone" were the first three rows where the people seated could get splashed on by water from the stage (they were given plastic raincoats to wear). That should be fun to witness up close.
The story is directly adapted from that of the movie. It was the exciting time in Hollywood when silent films were transitioning to talking pictures. Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont were the stars of Monument Films. Unfortunately, while Lina was beautiful on camera, she possess a voice that a microphone does not love. Don's best friend and pianist Cosmo Brown comes up with a bright idea to get someone else to be the voice of Lina. A talented stage actress named Kathy Selden was hired to be the speaking and singing voice of the crass and abrasive Lina for the film. However, Don, who had by then fallen in love with the spirited Kathy, had other plans in mind.
For me, the best performer of the show was Bethany Dickson as Kathy Selden. Ms. Dickson was so eye-catching, tall and lovely. You would be riveted to her above all the other girls in the chorus. Her voice was velvety in both speech and singing, showcased in songs like "You Are My Lucky Star" and "Would You?". Her Kathy was perky and proud, yet she exuded a kind heart. Those scenes where Kathy was dubbing over Lina's talking and singing while the movie scene was playing onscreen were absolutely magical.
On the other hand, Tanya Lee Hudson was simply on point as the tragically comical character of Lina Lamont. She came across as adorable and lovable in her scenes, both onstage and onscreen, despite her mean spirit of her character. She was even given a solo spot song number called "What's Wrong With Me?" that was off-key and screechy from first to last note, it must have been so vocally punishing to perform (as it was punishing for us to hear). She stole the thunder out from everyone else that night, and she received the loudest applause during the curtain call.
Steven Van Wyk was a very energetic performer as Cosmo Brown. He has a natural funny face and comic flair. He has a solo song number in Act 1 "Make Em Laugh" which was challenging with all the choreographed comedic stunts he had to do with the ensemble. Of course, he had to contend with being compared to the original number Donald O'Connor in the movie. Too bad he did not get to do the "walking up and flipping off the walls" part of the song, but he did the "crashing through the wall" part at the end.
If there was any major disappointment in the whole show for me, it would have to be the casting and performance of Duane Alexander in the lead role of Don Lockwood. Unlike Gene Kelly, Alexander did not feel right for the role as he did not exactly have the looks or charisma of a big movie star about him. His big centerpiece was the "Singin' In The Rain" number which ended Act 1 which featured the 12,000 liters of water raining down on the stage. Apart from the parts where he was splashing water on the audience, the number was not as exciting as I was expected. He was a good dancer, but there was no pizzazz.
The production really ran like clockwork, not a single sound glitch despite the challenges of dealing with water on stage. The elaborate set pieces, colorful costumes, hair and makeup, and scintillating tap dance routines really transported us back to the roaring twenties and the glamor of old Hollywood. The live musical accompaniment sounded flawless and excellent. The movie projections were clear and made so hilariously. The members of the cast were at so much risk of accidental injury or catching colds and laryngitis in this show getting wet every night while singing and dancing, so I admire their talent, dedication and stamina.
While I am all for Filipino stage talent, watching a foreign production once in a while is also very interesting, especially for their first-rate and very efficient technical aspects. (Watching the stage hands thoroughly dry the stage floor after the big rain scene during the 20 minute intermission was a show in itself).
Their promotional ads were right, this was indeed a show where you will leave with a smile on your face. It was such a happy, very delightful show to watch live.
You still have today and tomorrow to catch the last three shows of "Singin' in the Rain". It has a 3pm and 8pm show today, and a final 3pm show tomorrow. Take advantage of the very generous 50% off on all tickets, so ticket prices now only range from P3000 for VIP to P750 in the uppermost balcony. Check out the Ticketworld website to buy your tickets.