Showering everyone with happiness

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Tonight’s weather forecast inside Solaire’s The Theatre is wet as Singin’ in the Rain, the musical makes its gala performance. It’s going to rain (thanks to the sprinkler system which recycles 12,000 liters of treated water) at least on stage and the first three seating rows. So those taking these seats will wear ponchos to protect themselves from a small-scale “downpour” as Hollywood star Don Lockwood, the character originated by the Gene Kelly on the big screen, taps and twirls his way to everyone’s delight and astonishment.

The audience will see that glorious feeling Don couldn’t contain for Kathy Selden, a chorus girl and an aspiring actress, while his best buddy, Cosmo Brown, supports Don’s personal and professional endeavors.

Last May, The STAR had a chat with Grant Almirall, Bethany Dickson and Steven van Wyk, who formed the Don-Kathy-Cosmo triumvirate of the Auckland presentation of the musical at the Civic. This writer could sense their happiness to have fulfilled another musical dream. That is to sing in the rain.

“She’s incredibly ambitious and even in the company of big movie stars, she is still down to earth and very realistic about what she wants to do with her life,” said Bethany of the stage-trained Kathy. “If we’re thinking of what’s interesting about her, that is her character… she is willing to fight to get where she wants to be… she is willing to work hard for it… She is never bogged down by anything even if things go wrong with her life. She is very secure in her shoes, and in her knowledge and principles.”

The characters Kathy, Don and Cosmo are placed in a milieu, where silent movies are transitioning to talkies. “It’s a huge transition people will go through and it is a new experience to so many actors,” said Bethany. Don and his perennial onscreen partner Lina Lamont will show how an actor struggles in learning new acting and filming techniques, like recording or dubbing one’s voice.

“Don has a good heart and is a good person” said Grant. “He is charming and works very hard to get where he is as a movie star.” Grant’s Don seriously considers acting a craft and is a product of the star system of that era. The piano player, Cosmo, seems not a fan of Hollywood’s glitz and glamour. 

“I think he doesn’t take this whole world of Hollywood too seriously,” said Steven of his character. “(Not being disrespectful,) he is not scared by these movie stars like Lina, who is powerful. Cosmo doesn’t really care, that makes him kinda cool. He dances with his friends and is along for a ride. He has a job to play the piano in the studio.” Cosmo, added Steven, is Don’s best friend and is “quick on his feet,” to broach an idea in making Lina’s voice not sound screechy on the big screen.

And this plotline adapted from the silver screen to stage is given life by the actors who have gone through rigorous rehearsals to “muscle memory” the lines, the songs, the dances and the sequences, making everything as fluid as possible. 

“I think what is important to me every night is to tell a story,” said Bethany. “That requires me to be in the moment and to make that I stay true to what I’m saying… Every night before the show, I have to get myself into the zone and stay focus. I also do some of my physical warm-up and the most important is to have a few moments of focus.”

As for Grant, he said, “I try to be sincere to the character as possible. Every night, I try to be as true and real as I can be.”

Although inspired by the 1952 movie, the musical is not trying to be the movie, said Grant. Yes, he, Steven and Bethany have seen the movie several times, but they try not to base their performance on it. The musical is a tribute to the iconic movie, but it brings something new that everyone should look forward to and experience. For the Manila production of Singin’ in the Rain, Duane Alexander will play Don Lockwood since Grant has suffered an injury.

With the stage as the new medium of the story, it gives a different flavor to the characters’ interpretation. 

“There’s something about that number. It is so silly and crazy,” said Steven of Make ‘em Laugh, the signature segment of Cosmo, which also happens to be his favorite part. “I get a lot of joy for doing that. I get to fall over the piano and the whole thing with the suitcase. It is a lot fun to do. It’s like six minutes. It’s not just dance dance. There’s a lot of physical stuff going on. There’s a lot of singing, vocalizing, screaming and laughing.”

Grant, on the other hand, has to execute the Singin’ in the Rain segment without any hesitation as the water rises by about three inches on stage. “It is live theater and water on stage anyway is dangerous. You dance around it and you sing. (The dance sequence) is choreographed in such specific way, you can’t change it. If you’re feeling good and you are trying to make (a step) bigger, you can’t honestly do that, otherwise you will fall over.” If an actor playing Don accidentally slips, Grant said, “You just have to laugh, get up and smile.”

Aside from these must-see parts, Grant also likes You Were Meant For Me, while Steven picks Good Morning, where Don, Kathy and Cosmo get playful with the bench, and Moses Supposes with the dialect coach. “It has a nice choreography. It’s tap and it gets faster and faster,” said Steven. “It is silly and fun, it is like a marathon of a tap number. Everything is so fast and I love that piece of music.” But Kathy’s choice is the finale, “When we all dance with the umbrellas,” she said. And the entire company is off to perform the musical’s most popular song.

With that, Singin’ in the Rain fulfills its promise to give the audience an “all-dancing-and-all-singing entertainment” — and shower everyone with happiness. Photos by Elain Ojeda-Subido



(For details, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or log on to www.ticketworld.com.ph.)

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