Gretel Scarlett is one of Australia’s new song and dance stars of the stage after her lead role as Sandy in Grease as well as substantial parts in Wicked and Mamma Mia! Scarlett is currently tackling one of the most iconic musical roles: Kathy Selden, made famous by Debbie Reynolds in the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain.
Based on the 2012 English revival of the number one film on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest American musicals, the big budget stage version of Singin’ in the Rain (that includes the famous title dance scene complete with 12,000 litres of recycled water) strikes a balance between modern and classic. This is fitting given the MGM musical is about the film industry going through its most substantial change: from silent films to talkies in the late ‘20s.
“It caters to all generations and as such we’ve got a really good balance between modern 2016 and 1927,” Scarlett says. “We’ve been able to mould it without it feeling old school when you watch it, and without it offending the oldies by making it too modern.”
In the original, Gene Kelly played Don Lockwood, a silent star who is to make the switch to talkies with his musical sidekick Cosmo and on-screen partner Lina (who, unlike Don, didn’t have the voice to make the switch). Then Don meets Kathy, who has a voice and talent for talkies.
Though Singin’ in the Rain was a Gene Kelly vehicle that played to his strengths as a song and dance man (he also co-directed), the real star of the Singin’ in the Rain was the relatively unknown Debbie Reynolds, who wasn’t a dancer like Kelly, had the infectious smile and presence to be the film’s breakaway star. Scarlett, who is a trained dancer (unlike Reynolds) says she has to acknowledge Reynolds’ performance in the film.
“She made it iconic for a reason,” Scarlett says. “There’s so much you can do with it but this character is very close to what she’s like in the film, except she’s got more dance sequences that tap more into the ballet side of things; the dancing is a little more difficult than what Debbie did in the film.
“That’s the difference as such; you’ve got your boundaries to play in. We’ve all got to have an essence of them [the film’s characters] and bring an essence of ourselves to the role and that way you make an audience feel safe, they’re getting a dose of both worlds. You don’t want to offend the audience.”
The stage version has received praise in London and in Australia, with Adelaide being the fourth stop on a national run. Scarlett says there haven’t been changes made to the show since the Australian run started, aside from cast changes as the original Don Lockwood, Adam Garcia, had to pull out of the show after tearing his calf muscle.
“It happened live on stage and was quite devastating for all of us as a company to watch that happen. But we’ve got two boys now who alternate the role [Grant Almirall and Rowan Brown].”
Singin’ in the Rain
From Thursday, December 1