8 Questions With actor Grant Almirall: Dancin' in the rain is tough

Actor Grant Almirall says he has to make his role in Singin’ In The Rain look effortless but he is actually “dying inside” as it is so hot. -- PHOTO: HAGEN HOPKINS
Actor Grant Almirall says he has to make his role in Singin’ In The Rain look effortless but he is actually “dying inside” as it is so hot. -- PHOTO: HAGEN HOPKINS

South African actor Grant Almirall, 36, will tap dance on a stage with 12,000 litres of water pouring from the ceiling to perform one of the most iconic scenes in a musical.

This is the rain scene from Singin' In The Rain, a musical based on the 1952 MGM movie, starring Gene Kelly, about Hollywood in the 1920s.

The rain scene is the most challenging part of the show for the actor, who has slipped more than once while performing.

"You've just got to smile, get up, laugh it off and carry on. It's challenging also because it's such a physical role and I have to make it look effortless and look so easy. Meanwhile, you're dying inside because you can't breathe, it's so hot."

He plays Don Lockwood, a silent movie star who has a widely publicised "romance" with actress Lina Lamont (played by Taryn Lee-Hudson) who is convinced that their on-screen romance is real.

He falls in love with Kathy Seldon (Bethany Dickson), an aspiring theatre actress who comes to work for the studio Don and Lina work for, dubbing Lina's grating voice in the musical The Dancing Cavalier.

Jealous of their relationship, Lina demands that Kathy dub her voice in all the future films but remain uncredited. The studio director is forced to agree.

However, Don and his best friend Cosmo (Steven Van Wyk) expose Lina at the film premiere and reveal Kathy to be the real star, resulting in a happy ending.

Almirall says he shares little in common with his character Don, other than the fact that both are performers and "easygoing". The actor, who is engaged, has a sister and brother, both in their 30s.

He said: "Don is charming and he's not a liar but he knows how to spin a story. I'm honest."

The show opens on July 9 and will run till July 26 at Marina Bay Sands. It will be the actor's second time performing in Singapore. He starred as Frankie Valli in the musical Jersey Boys from November 2012 to February 2013. He also performed at Celebrate 2013, MediaCorp's New Year countdown party, as part of The Four Seasons, the lead cast of Jersey Boys.

1. What was your childhood like?

Growing up, I did a lot of drawings of cartoon characters and my favourite superheros. I watched a lot of cartoons on TV. And we used to record them and I remember freeze-framing certain sections of the cartoons and then drawing them on paper. I think that's how I learnt to draw.

My mum and dad are both incredible. My dad was an inventor. He made swings and treehouses and zipline slides over the swimming pool.

2. How did you become involved in theatre?

I got into theatre when I was in junior school. A friend came to me and said, "Oh you know, we're going to this drama after school, please come with us". The weirdest thing is, when they left junior school, they didn't carry on with it but I did.

When I finished high school, I was thinking, "Do I study art or do I study theatre?"

And a choreographer whom I had done several shows with said, "You have to go and study theatre". She spoke to the head of department at my university and she got me in. So I decided to go with the flow and see where it took me.

3. What is the one thing you cannot do as a lead actor that the rest of the cast can do?

The cast will hang out together on their day off or take a trip, but I can't really do that too much as I need to save energy and look after myself.

This is a very physical show. I do a lot of dancing because Don's in every scene and every dance number.

4. How long are you usually away from home?

It varies. It can be three months at a time, like the time I was in Jersey Boys. Thank goodness, we haven't done a tour yet where it has been six months or nine months.

5. What is the hardest part of a performance?

It's always the first leg, the initial "tech" week, which is getting through the rehearsals which could be from 10am till 11pm, with breaks for lunch and supper. Everything, like the lighting and the sound, has to be perfect before opening night. Once the show opens, you can relax a little bit.

6. How do you avoid burnout?

I like watching sci-fi and fantasy movies. I also like the Batman movies including The Dark Knight Rises. I'm still a bit of a geek . I love Batman, Superman and comic books. I love looking at art and I love the art of graphic novels. I also like spending time with people I love.

7. What are some Singaporean dishes you have tried?

I've tried chilli crab - which is really good - and fish head curry. During my previous trip here, I visited Lau Pa Sat in the Shenton Way area and tried stingray and oyster omelette. I wouldn't try durian though. The smell is just...

8. How would you like to be remembered?

As a good-hearted person. I think if I've made people smile, that would be good.

leejs@sph.com.sg