PETER TROMP hat a chat with the glamorous duo of GRANT ALMIRALL and BETHANY DICKSON, the stars of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, the lavish musical that is showing at the Artscape Opera House this festive season.
(picture: Grant Almirall as Don Lockwood with Bethany Dickson as Kathy Selden in ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ – Photo by Hagen Hopkins)
Tell us about ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ and what audiences can look forward to with the production.
Grant Almirall: Hollywood, 1927. Monumental Pictures’ biggest silent movie star couple are Don Lockwood (Almirall) and Lina Lamont (Taryn-Lee Hudson). Off-screen they are not in love, despite what Lina imagines. During the filming of their new movie ‘The Royal Rascal’ the film industry goes through a technological breakthrough in the form of the “talkies”. Now every movie theatre is installing sound equipment and Monumental must adapt ‘The Royal Rascal’ into a talking picture.
The only problem is that Lina’s voice does not match her beauty. In the meantime Don has been seeing Kathy Selden (Dickson), an aspiring actress, and they decide to lip sync Kathy’s voice over Lina’s…without Lina knowing. What follows next? Come and see for yourselves.
Bethany Dickson: ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ is pretty much everything you could wish for in a musical. The show boasts some of the best dance sequences, and seamlessly recreates some of the most iconic moments in cinema history, live on stage. It is a nostalgic experience for those who love the movie and an incredible theatre experience for those who don’t know it at all.
Tell us about your character and how you went about realising the role. What unique qualities do you think you’re bringing to the part?
Almirall: Don is charming, witty and very confident. The show is about the entertainment industry so playing this character isn’t that foreign to me. I am familiar with that world, although I am not a famous movie star like him. I hope I bring a sincerity to the part. Don wants to find someone who loves him for who he is and not for his star status. He finds that in Kathy Selden.
Dickson: Kathy Seldon is an aspiring actress. The role was made famous by the incredible Debbie Reynolds. I pretty much just tried to “find” my Kathy by playing her like a real person. The cool thing is that I can connect with the journey of my character – with her chasing a career in performing and me – as myself doing the same thing. I hope, above and beyond doing the piece justice, that I bring a sense of authenticity to this role.
How have preparations for this production differed from previous large scale musicals you have starred in?
Almirall: The show is very dance heavy and the choreography changes from tap to jazz to ballet and then there’s the singing and acting aspect too. I had to make sure I was able to keep up physically with what the show requires. I attended ballet classes a month before rehearsals started.
Dickson: I have never done a show that requires the same level of excellence in dance, singing and acting. I’ve always been in shows where I focus mainly on the dancing or just on the singing. So this required a lot more physical preparation for me than usual.
What are the main technical challenges for an actor on the show?
Almirall: Mainly, performing in the rain. It rains twice in the show and so we have to make sure we don’t slip and fall when performing those numbers, all the while smiling and trying to make it look effortless.
How long would you say it took you guys to establish chemistry amongst yourselves?
Dickson: Well thankfully Grant and I had worked together before, although not on this level. But we had a basic foundation of familiarity upon which we could build chemistry. It all kind of started right away. He’s a good friend so that makes it a much easier and speedier process.
This production toured for quite some time overseas. Please share with us a memorable story from your travels.
Almirall: While performing in Hong Kong a group of South Africans came to watch the show. We bumped into them outside the theatre afterwards and when they found out that we were an all SA cast, they were shocked. They said that the show was so good that they thought it was a West End cast. I thought that was a great compliment to the quality and standard of our performers, director and production crew.
What is the most nervous you’ve ever been on stage?
Dickson: I’ve had some pretty nerve wrecking moments. I think I deal with nerves well. But sometimes it does get the better of you. I’ve had times when I was ill and my voice was slowly disappearing and I had to go on and sing a solo. I couldn’t feel my hands at the end of the performance I was so nervous and anxious. Nerves are a good thing, so whenever I feel overwhelmed, I try to let the nerves work in my favour. It doesn’t always work, but I try.
Almirall: Definitely for this show. It is a marathon of a show, but so worthwhile and fulfilling to perform.
“Last night a show changed my life.” Which show?
Dickson: ‘Les Misérables’. Ever since I first heard those songs, I knew I had to perform. I’m still waiting for the opportunity to be in that production. I’m hoping one day it will happen. ‘Wicked’ also had an insane impact on my life and my decision to perform professionally.
Almirall: Singin’ in the Rain’. Of course!
Last punt: why should folks book for ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ right now?
Dickson: Because this is it…this is the time to see this masterpiece live on stage. It’s been running for so long, because it’s one of the best musicals around. It’s a show that everyone will enjoy; the whole family. And Christmas is a time for family. And if that’s not enough, it rains on stage. You don’t get any cooler than that, especially in the heat of summer.
* ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is showing from December 11 to January 10.
Book your tickets Computicket.