Sunday, September 27, 2015

REVIEW: Singin' in the Rain

HKAPA Lyric Theatre, Saturday September 26

Be it crashing chandelier, landing helicopter, flying Peter or pouring rain, who doesn't like these stage technical wonders that magically transform the stage into thrilling entertainment? This Singin' in the Rain is an adaptation from the 1952 movie of the same name. With a book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, lyrics by Arthur Freed, and music by Nacio Herb Brown, the story is about the waning days of the silent screen era. It focuses on romantic lead Don Lockwood, his sidekick Cosmo Brown, aspiring actress Kathy Selden, and Lockwood's leading lady Lina Lamont, whose squeaky shrill voice is a disaster-in-waiting for talking pictures.

I saw this production back in December 21 2012 at London's Palace Theatre and I remember saying that, "this version directed by Jonathan Church and choreographed by Andrew Wright, boasts a really polished production". This outing in Hong Kong was pretty faithful based on what I can remember. The production design was absolutely glorious, tight and magical... Have I mentioned rain? Seeing the choreography the second time around made me realize that it was more than just classic Hollywood though, but also loaded and compelling. For the opening night, it was unfortunate that there were some mic issues in the first half, though it was all solved in the second half. The one thing that I wish was amplified better were the tap sections of the show.

Performance wise, the three main leads (Duane Alexander, Steven Van Wyk & Bethany Dickson) were very skilled and competent; though for some reason, their combination just didn't reach the height of synergy shown in the London performance I saw (Adam Cooper, Daniel Crossley & Scarlett Strallen). Taryn-Lee Hudson as the vocally-challenged Lina Lamont was uproariously effective.

I am still sore at the fact that this West End production do not have the signature run-up-wall backflip made famous by Donald O'Connor as Cosmo Brown in the movie number Make 'Em Laugh. AND it is not impossible to replicate it on stage as demonstrated back in 2002, when the Australian production toured Hong Kong, Wayne Scott Kermond did the exact stunt to wondrous effect!

Have I mentioned rain? The rain sequence was pure wizardry. Every splish and splash onto the audience drew a wave of laughters from the dry ones. Better yet, it was repeated at the end with the whole cast! In summary, the evening was infectiously enjoyable and the production is a splashing hit! GO and CATCH IT!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

REVIEW: Cirque de la Symphonie (HK Philharmonic Orchestra) and La Soiree (Lunchbox Theatrical Productions)

  • HK Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday September 12 (Cirque de la Symphonie) 
  • HKAPA Lyric Theatre, Wednesday September 16 (La Soiree) 
Circus has come a long way. What used to be acrobatics, aerial acts combined with animal acts presented in a variety show setting has slowly evolved to a more theatrical and character-driven way of performing in which Cirque du Soleil is most well-known for. I have seen Cirque du Soleil in various reincarnations (Alegria, O, QUIDAM, SALTIMBANCO, ZAIA; and the last one was Michael Jackson: The Immortal); and I got to the point wherein I don’t think I will ever go and see another one ever.

I went to see Cirque de la Symphonie mainly because of HK Philharmonic Orchestra. It was part of my annual subscription and the idea of acrobats and jugglers with live classical music was not too bad. The most noticeably different last Saturday was the audience. They were definitely not the regular HKPhil concert-goers. The audience was significantly younger and keener… and unusually late.

Cirque de la Symphonie - Aerial Duo Alexander Streltsov and Christine Van Loo
Conductor Guy Noble did a great job in putting everyone at ease and in introducing the music and the acts, though I feel that he could have talked a bit more about the music. It would have been a great way to introduce the young audience to what HKPhil is about. The acts were good. There were juggling, aerial silk, aerial hoop and acrobalance; and all with a distinct Eastern European flavor (read old fashion) that somehow suits perfectly with the music of Kabalevsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Debussy and Bizet. The audience was very enthusiastic and the evening was a pleasant one. Without HKPhil on stage however, I really just don’t see the point. Most of the acts were not new, which is fine, but they ought to be packaged better.

Now La Soiree is a totally different animal. Again, there’s juggling, aerial silk (more like leather), aerial hoop and acrobalance, but all these acts were infused with so much character and naughtiness that made them delightfully delectable. On top of the mentioned acts were diabolo, contortion, pole-dancing, comedy acts and singing all packaged into a night of Patpong meets Moulin Rouge cabaret evening.

While the show is being recommended for 7 years and over, I would strongly recommend not to bring kids to the show, unless you are ready to explain why the lady on stage has removed her panty, lubricated a kazoo, made the kazoo disappeared under her skirt and the kazoo started making noises… enough said.

My favorite act was Hamish McCann’s pole routine. It started off with Singin’ in the Rain music then segued to the song Feeling Good (popularized by Michael Buble). The whole act was a showcase of incredible gravity-defying acro-gymnastic moves saturated with easy sensuality.

La Soiree - Pole Routine by Hamish McCann

My least favorite act on the other hand was Le Gateau Chocolat. She is like a bass-baritone Pavarotti in drag. The shock value wore off very easily and what was left is her singing which was alright but not special at all.

La Soiree - Bass-Baritone Le Gateau Chocolat

Overall, I really enjoyed this Olivier Award-winning show and would highly recommend it to anybody looking for a fun evening of heady-saucy entertainment. The prices ranges from HK$1,095 to HK$395, which I feel is a tad on the high side. The show will end on September 20.