Rain dance has been perfected

2015-12-15 06:00
From left: Anne Power, Mila de Biaggi, Steven van Wyk, Grant Almirall and Thalia Burt in a scene from Singin’ in the Rain. PHOTO: Hagen Hopkins

From left: Anne Power, Mila de Biaggi, Steven van Wyk, Grant Almirall and Thalia Burt in a scene from Singin’ in the Rain. PHOTO: Hagen Hopkins

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A group of local performers are among those currently bringing the iconic Singin’ in the Rain to life on the Artscape stage.

Although the story was made famous by Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in the 1952 MGM movie, Singin’ in the Rain is set in 1927 and follows the first Hollywood musical, when movies moved from a silent realm and found their voice.

Camps Bay’s Anton Luitingh is the production’s resident director and says: “I have loved working on this production, because whilst the show deals with a specific time in Hollywood history, and is clearly a period piece, there is still much that is relevant to our industry today.”

At its heart though, Anton says, Singin’ in the Rain is a love story. He describes it as “a feel-good musical about delirious happiness, a homage to the movies, the chemistry between friends and a celebration of the joys of life.”

Mila de Biaggi from Bantry Bay plays the Broadway Ballet Girl. Originally played by Cyd Charisse, the sexy, sassy character appears in one of the production’s more iconic scenes when the character Cosmo is trying to “sell” his ideas.

“Cyd Charisse was the top dancer in her day,” Mila says, adding that she used Cyd as a mentor and guide, but understands the importance of making the character her own.

“I believe a top priority of mine is keeping the role of the character and the story as real as possible.”

Cosmo, a character who heads to Hollywood almost on the coat tails of his best friend, Don Lockwood, a star of the silent movie era, is brought to life by Cape Town’s Steven van Wyk.

“Cosmo Brown is a character I grew up with, having watched the film since childhood with near religious reverence,” Steven says. “Although he comes across as the court jester, I think deep down he knows he’s really the brains of the operation with Don.”

Steven tried to make the character his own by finding common ground, which it turns out was easy for him, as he relates to Cosmo on many levels.

Another local in the cast is Camps Bay’s Duane Alexander. He is also the alternate Don Lockwood.

“It’s a great pleasure and lots of fun to play this iconic role,” he says, adding that it comes with its own challenges, like the pressure of living up to Gene Kelly’s version of the role.

“I just try to be as honest, warm and sincere as possible and hope that it brings some balance to the other vivid characters in the show.”

Many of the cast members have toured internationally before bringing Singin’ in the Rain to Cape Town.

Steven says audiences responded differently to each of the characters in different parts of the world. “It was fascinating how audiences responded differently in the various cities.”

A special memory for him is performing the show alongside sign-language interpreters at a show for the hearing impaired in New Zealand. “The amount of research and rehearsal that went into what they did really moved me.”

“We even got some fans from previous shows who flew all the way to Hong Kong to see us perform,” Mila points out, adding that many fans spoiled them with gifts or showed them their cities.

While being showered with rain in the production comes part and parcel when being involved with Singin’ in the Rain, Duane says: “We have a super team of technicians and crew on this production so there have been very few technical hiccups, but the water and rain element does add a whole new dimension and causes some crazy mishaps.”

That being said, Anton says they’ve had lots of time to “polish the show to perfection overseas”. “Cape Town audiences are in for a massive treat!”

“This show is beautiful – the music, the set, the lighting, the performers and, of course, having rain on stage is magical,” Mila adds. V Singin’ in the Rain will be at the Artscape Opera House until Sunday 10 January and tickets are available at Computicket. The first three rows of the stalls (A to C) are designated as the “splash zone” where there is a strong chance of a shower.

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