New Brisbane-based theatrical production company Prospero Arts debuts with concerts of the classic musical, Sing in the rain, in collaboration with the Queensland Performing Arts Center (QPAC). Considered one of the greatest Hollywood musicals ever made, the rich musical score features many hit songs – “Make ’em Laugh”, “Gotta Dance”, “Good Morning” and the iconic “Singin’ in the Rain”, among others. It also features wonderful dance and tap numbers, demanding a versatile cast of triple-threat performers who can play, dance, and sing.
Prospero Arts based this production on the classic film version, directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly and starring Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, which celebrates its 70e birthday this year. A joyful and entertaining musical on many levels, this lively production features some of Australia’s best and brightest talent, many of whom were born and raised in Queensland.
Set in the 1920s, the musical focuses on the transition between silent films and moving pictures. Don Lockwood (Bobby Fox) and Lina Lamont (Georgina Hopson), are glamorous Hollywood silent film stars, playing roles in the many swashbuckling films of the era. Although Hollywood binds them romantically, Lockwood falls in love with Kathy Selden (Angelique Cassimatis) who turns out to be a talented singer, dancer and actress. She’s just the girl for the new talking pictures, rather than the unfortunate Lamont whose accent and singsong voice can’t tell the difference. Although the story is predictable, its social commentary on this fascinating period in cinematic history is on point.
Prospero Arts’ production cleverly captured the style, feel and sheer energy of the film with infectious panache. Although it was not fully staged and advertised as a “live” performance, there was no apparent skimping on staging or production values, with impressive period costumes d ‘Anna Handford.
The 20-piece band took center stage, with two staircases on either side of the musicians leading to a platform that ran above the orchestra and in front of a giant screen. Acting as both a vintage cinema screen and projecting images representing various sets, it was the perfect staging solution. It was brilliantly used to open the show with movie titles projecting the names of the creative team, cast and musicians, perfectly timed to the duration of the opening. It got the show off to a good start.
Plus, delightful clips from period “silent movies” and “talking pictures” have been ingeniously created by video production company Optikal Bloc. Using key actors, these were great fun but also seemingly too accurate and real. Video designer Craig Wilkinson used the screen for a range of excellent footage, including the famous rain scene, complete with sound effects by Geoff McGahan. Production elements were mostly very smooth, despite some minor mic and screen issues, as was Ben Hughes’ well-done lighting design.
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Director and choreographer Cameron Mitchell has painted wonderful stage images for principals and ensemble, using the stage to great effect. The two staircases variously depicted movie grounds, studio offices, dressing rooms, parties, street scenes, even the red carpet of opening nights. The platform above the orchestra became a catwalk as well as a chorus of dancers for the song “Beautiful Girl”, sung with charm by tenor Liam Head. Mitchell’s characters were well fleshed out, while his choreography, especially several wonderful tap numbers that included “Good Morning” and “Broadway Melody,” was terrific and very engaging. His attention to detail was excellent while his polished production brought the show to life.
No less impressive was the musical director, Vanessa Scammell, who gave a meticulously curated reading of this memorable score. From the Orchestral Overture to the Entr’acte, passing through some of the most famous songs, she has delivered a varied and infinitely colorful sound palette. The orchestra played this sparkling score with passion and commitment through romantic and grandiose numbers such as “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and “You Are My Lucky Star”., alongside heavy brass and percussive Jazz Age numbers such as ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ and ‘Broadway Melody‘.
As Don Lockwood, Bobby Fox gave a finely honed and expertly delivered performance on every level – as actor, singer and dancer. Barely off stage, her energy level was impressive and her tap dancing and singing superb. He pulled off the iconic ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ in his own inimitable style, not trying to emulate Gene Kelly, but delivering an equally fine rendition to the delight of a grateful audience.
Angelique Cassimatis was his partner as love interest, Kathy Selden, making her charming character both strong and vulnerable in equal measure. A terrific actress, she has a beautiful soprano voice and equally excellent dancing and tap-dancing skills, demonstrated in both “Good Morning” and “All I Do is Dream of You.”, as well as in his many scenes with Lockwood.
As Lockwood’s offside, the comedic character of Cosmo Brown was played very well by Mark Hill, who made a great fall guy and matched Lockwood in energy and commitment. He made the most of his big number, ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’, with good timing and lots of humor. Together Hill and Fox made a great team in both ‘Fit as Fiddle’ and ‘Moses Supposes’, with lots of quick deals and some great dance numbers.
The role of the unfortunate Lina Lamont was well interpreted by the delicious Georgina Hopson. With her ugly, shrill voice, both speaking and singing, as well as her woeful attempts to learn diction and speak into a microphone, she gave us a hilarious but venomous character. His rendition of “What’s Wrong With Me?” was a lot of fun, especially because it must have been so hard to sing so badly.
Michael Tuahine as RF studio head Simpson, Gabriel Tiller as director Roscoe Dexter, and Lena Cruz as Hollywood publicist Miss Dinsmore were all solid, as was the talented ensemble of singers and dancers.
Let’s sing in the rain in concert was an exhilarating and fun musical evening in the concert hall. It offered a brilliant, well-acted, cleverly staged and directed musical score with terrific choreography and a strong, talented cast. Prospero Arts and QPAC should be delighted with the success of their first venture into local musical theater productions in Brisbane, and we look forward to much more from this collaboration in the future.
Sing in the rain – in concert
Presented by Prospero Arts and QPAC
Concert Hall, QPAC
Direction and choreography: Cameron Mitchell
Musical direction: Vanessa Scammell
Lighting Designer: Ben Hughes
Sound Designer: Geoff McGahan
Costume Designer: Anna Handford
Video Designer: Craig Wilkinson
Video production: Optikal bloc
Production Manager: Alex Shenton Parkin
With: Bobby Fox, Angelique Cassimatis, Mark Hill, Michael Tuahine, Georgina Hopson, Lena Cruz, Caitlin Quinn, Gabriel Tiller, Liam Head
Ensemble: Courtney Bell, Jack Connor-Rowan, Shay Debney, Chloë Marshall, Joe Meldrum, Isabella Roberts, Sophie Zidar
Sing in the rain – in concert was played from November 11 to 13, 2022