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 !