Over a light, jovial discussion with fellow theaterati the other day, we ruminated over how contemporary musicals these days seem to be devoid of an invisible, indefinable sound, a timeless, unexplainable quality to them or, for lack of a better term, a certain zsa zsa zsu. Whereas musicals of yesteryear had an iconic emotional quality in their musical progressions — in which the first few notes would quickly call to mind feelings of joy, or sadness, or nostalgia associated with the equally iconic musicals to which they belong (i.e. The Sound of Music, The King and I) — these days, it’s all about the story-driven, evocative, contemporary sound. Rules are: there are no rules. It makes you wonder how perhaps the best, lasting, timeless kind of art starts off from parameters that are set and clearly defined, and epoch or identity is engendered or redefined altogether.
This is also the reason why, despite being exposed to so many kinds of theater, dance and performance art, there is always that notion of homecoming when you come face to face with a classic — a classic such as Singin’ in the Rain, one of the most beloved MGM musicals of all time, now a worldwide stage phenomenon. Seriously, who doesn’t love Singin’ in the Rain — the Gene Kelly movie musical that had us rhyming “Moses” with “roses,” and swinging from lampposts while getting drenched in what all of a sudden feels like delectable rain?
A surprise Debbie Reynolds guest appearance on So You Think You Can Dance a few seasons back spurred heavy online conversation and made audiences (and host Cat Deeley) go gaga once again about that musical’s lasting influence. To call it “one of the most beloved musicals of all time” merely emphasizes my earlier point — the non-logical but palpable zsa zsa zsu justifying the simple tautology that classics are classics because, well, they’re classics.
Now, it’s easy to get lost in the shimmer and gloss of a classic like Singin’ in the Rain. But the musical, as with the political underbelly of The Sound of Music, also thoughtfully portrays a seismic shift in culture — particularly the transition from silent films to the talkies (also depicted in movies like The Artist). Set in the ‘20s, the premise starts off with movie star Don Lockwood (Grant Amirall) at the zenith of this cultural shift. In the process, he meets Kathy Selden (Bethany Dickson), a chorus girl who is unfazed by his fame, and therefore piques his curiosity. Along with them is Cosmo Brown (Steven Van Wyk), Don’s bestie and a collaborator in his films.
Set to music and costumes that transport, and dancing that takes the form of a fourth lead (the dancing is really quite something), the musical promises to enthrall Manila audiences with stagecraft — but even more so, the inevitable joy that fills you as you leave the theater. Steve Amirall ends, “I think it’s something for everyone. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears.” And did I mention rain? If you find yourself sitting in the first few rows (what is otherwise known as “the splash zone”), you will get wet. Me likey.
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Singin’ in the Rain opens at The Theatre at Solaire on Aug, 20. For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph.