BWW Reviews: Wash Your Cares Away with Singin' In The Rain
Directed by Greg Zane
Choreographed by Jim Cooney
Music By Emmett G. Yoshioka
I had not seen the movie version of this play in many years, and had never seen a live Broadway production of it, so it feels a little like acrobatic writing without the net to attempt a review of this classic. At the same time, I liked coming to it fresh, having remembered little of the story line.
This was the final night for the performance at the Diamond Head Theater, and the place was packed. It was an eclectic crowd, with the expected larger ratio of older generation, but there did appear to be a broad cross-section of the Hawaiian community present.
The Diamond Head Theatre is redolent with atmosphere of a bygone era, and so a prefect setting for this play. It is a sweet, old building nestled at the base of Diamond Head Crater, and set against the back-drop of the glittering lights of Waikiki; pushcarts offer refreshments in the charming courtyard prior to the show, and at intermission. Walking through it's doors, one takes a step back in time.
The band is warming up in their open box, stage right. A couple of stage hands role out a large placard that announces the evening's performance. There appears to be a conscious effort to keep things low tech and not too slick, helping the audience adjust back to proto-technical times.
Artistic Director John Rampage takes the stage in a loud yellow hibiscus shirt and gives a spirited introduction and a list of coming events, promoting a contest to recruit new season members.
The band kicks off and two primitive projector screens drop down on either side of the stage. Flickering black and white images appear, showing a series of the earliest silent film footage. It was amusing to see the film short of a rocket plunging into the eye of the moon, and other bits of film that had been the centerpiece for Martin Scorsese's film, Hugo". Also, some amusing Charlie Chaplin footage sets the mood.
Enter the actors, and we are in for a high-spirited romp.
I won't be a spoiler and go into too much of the storyline, and instead just provide some overall impressions. I was not prepared for the over-the-top goofiness of it all. It seemed that, in one scene after another, the actors exhorted us to please revel in our foolishness, because human beings are the most ridiculous creatures and so we might as well have a good laugh about it.
The theme of the play is similar to Scorsese's Hugo in that it reveals the pathos of the end of an age of the silent film industry (1920's) underlying a giddy optimism for the future as technological changes in media sweep through society.
The other impression I got from "Singin'" was the incredible depth of talent required of all the actors. The legendary Gene Kelly was the original choreographer, setting a high bar for anyone to follow (or vault over), to belabor the metaphor. This performance is meant to be extremely high intensity; highly athletic. To pull it off, actors must have a huge vocal range, a powerful voice, be highly gifted dancers in a number of genre's including tap, flamenco, ballet, have the agility of an acrobat, be incredibly funny and posses the ability to act !
They were all so physically beautiful, (or perfectly caste, befitting their role). One imagines a vast pool of players and an extreme vetting process to have achieved so many crème de la crème in one show.
Now to The Players: what is the Rosetta stone of performance art ? I posit that it is accessible genius. Everyone wants to be connected with genius. But let's face it, not everyone is. I am not called in this review to plumb the reasons why. The recipe offered by The Players here (which I consider to be worthy avatars of the genius of the director) is that unconditional self deprecation combined with brilliant talent, allows everyone to transcend and access the realm of genius as something communal, something accessible to everyone.
There were the stand-outs that I'll mention, but then there were the stand-out moments by many others too numerous to mention, with apologies.
Sean Quinn (Don Lockwood): WOW … you did Gene AND Greg proud ! I'm not just talking about your technical skills and raw talent, but with your courage to see these as mere tools for delivering your sheer IRREVERANCE. Why you are shelved here in Hawaii and not in New York or Paris or somewhere deemed a cultural center of the Universe ???? (Or, are you temporarily caste as Messiah in Hawaii, that world attention be drawn here ?)
Kyle Malis (CosMo Brown): You are freakishly talented, and scarily self-effacing, how did you avoid getting blacklisted in this nouveau Apartheid ? Guys like you used to be making millions and worshiped by Hollywood a la Lina Lamont back in the day.
Ahnya Chang (Lina Lamont): Yours was the toughest role to play (shadow of femininity), and you were brilliant. How did you have the strength not to be destroyed by it ? I can only assume that the artist in you was fed by the fact that it was the "juiciest part" in the play.
Marcela Biven (Kathy Selden): I could almost say the same for you (pertaining to your painful role of having to play the light side of feminity) how could you endure the immersion for so long into someone so "milk toast" ? I will choose to see you as brilliant, painfully suffering through having to play someone so one dimensional with consummate precision and skill (rather than seeing you as actually being like her, heavan forbid !).
Suzanne Maloney (Donna Bailey): You were so searingly accurate as a Hollywood sycophant, not as cruel and shallow critic, but as a richly sympathetic and compassionate maven of both public and press, thank you.
Rick Manayan (Diction Coach): What an outrageous dark horse you are ! What a horrifyingly ego-less performance of "geekiness" elevated to brilliance with insidious precision and skill. Thank you for your tutorial.
I wish I could channel inner "total recall" and infinite discipline because I'm sure I'd have something loving to say about everyone in this play, but alas I am lazy in my own post as reviewer, and will recuse myself with a list of the cast, and an admonition to go see any play where any of them are listed. You may gain entre' into something you've lost.
Other cast members:
Mathias Maas, Pedro Armando Haro, Kathryn Lee, Peter Togawa, Phillip Foster, Brittany Browning, Jackson Saunders, Sky Chang, Richard Aadland, Janie Andrews, Nathaniel Aune, Michelle Matias, Autumn Ogawa, Celie Chun, Sean Ramsey, Christopher Gritti, Riley Sakamoto, Haley Hughes, Ari Dalbert, Symon Rowlands, Phillip Foster, Timothy Rowlands, Yvonne Yanagihara
I will conclude with a quote from Director Greg Zane (lifted from the evening's program), "It is my hope that Singing' In The Rain washed away your worries and cares and replaces them with a smile on your face and the sun in your heart."