Singin’ in the Rain JR
Hunter Drama, at St Philip’s Christian College Theatre, Waratah
Legally Blonde: The Musical JR
Pantseat Performing Arts, at the Civic Playhouse, Newcastle
Both shows ended July 8
THE excellent performances of the young actors in these two musicals confirmed that this region produces ever-growing numbers of amazing stage talents. While both works had been shortened to playing times of 70 minutes in accordance with junior musical adaptations, the stories and characters lost none of their engagement and pleasure.
Singin’ in the Rain JR amusingly brought out the chaos that occurred among Hollywood film studios when the first feature film with sound, The Jazz Singer, became a hit in the late 1920s. The musical was initially a highly-acclaimed film in the 1950s, and was subsequently adapted for the stage by writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The recent junior adaptation retains all the songs and most of the situations.
The 25 young actors kept the story moving briskly under the guidance of a team led by director Drew Holmes, with the singing of the title number by movie star Don Lockwood (William Parker), while holding an umbrella over the head of emerging actress Kathy Selden (Sophie Carmody) as the pair dancingly moved through an early morning rainstorm, being enchanting.
Don is a film star who regularly plays opposite Lina Lamont (Georgia Vaughan), a blonde with a squeaky voice who is referred to as his girlfriend in newspapers and sees herself as such. Lockwood, however, is attracted to Kathy when he meets her in a street while escaping female fans, and subsequently finds himself working with her when she is engaged to provide the voice for Lina’s character in their studio’s first sound film.
The production’s brightness was evident from the opening scene, when Don and his friend and former partner in a vaudeville act, Cosmo Brown (Luke Barker), raised laughs with their dance movements when singing Fit As a Fiddle at the request of Dora Bailey (Zoe Walker), a gushing reporter covering the premiere of the latest film starring Don and Lina. The story moved briskly from one colourful setting to another, with the ensemble members playing many vibrant people. Zoe Walker, for example, was also Miss Dinsmore, a tough vocal coach hired to try to give Lina a more cultured voice.
Legally Blonde: The Musical Jr shows a young woman with the title hair colour who is told by her boyfriend that she’s “not serious enough” when he leaves her to attend Harvard Law School proving he is wrong by literally singing her way into a legal studies course and developing a down-to-earth legal style while there. The 26 performers, directed by Kimberley Dingle, grabbingly showed the characters’ strengths and weaknesses, with movements such as a multi-performer skipping rope dance in Whipped into Shape, presented as a physical fitness trainer accused of murdering her husband tried to establish what she was doing when he was killed, having watchers in awe.
Jordan Warner, as the central character, Elle Woods, established the woman’s ability to convincingly use legalities to obtain fair decisions, with one amusing scene having her attend the farm owned by the former partner of hair salon owner Paulette (Lily Sanders) to recover the pet dog that he kept. Elle subsequently raised laughs when she showed how the movements Bend and Snap could help Paulette win the affections of a parcel man she was attracted to.
Like Singin’ in the Rain, Legally Blonde has an engaging group of characters, among them Emmett Forrest (Theodore Williams), a fellow legal student who befriends Elle, and their never-smiling head teacher, Professor Callahan (Jacob Gamble), who in one scene declares that he has given a would-be student “C-minus Callahan”.