Theatre Review: Singin’ in the Rain

Date Posted: 22/02/2012

Melissa Cadby donned her galoshes and mackintosh to review the latest musical offering to transfer to the West End stage.

The show summed up in one sentence… a classic tale of romance in the often-fickle world of show-business, set to a catchy soundtrack, with plenty of giggles along the way.

Who should see it? Fans of the original MGM film would love this musical, as would family groups, and those who favour good old-fashioned entertainment.

Located at the intersection of Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue, right in the beating heart of London’s Theatreland, the imposing Palace Theatre was festooned with colourful umbrellas for the launch of new musical, Singin’ in the Rain.

Based on the iconic 1952 MGM film, which starred twinkle-toes himself Gene Kelly, the show has transferred to the West End following last year’s successful stint at the Chichester Festival Theatre in Sussex. Directed by Jonathan Church, the production opens by establishing the location as ‘Hollywoodland’ in the roaring 20s, as the elevated orchestra plays out the recognisable echoes of the title track.

It is from the centre aisle of the stalls, utilised as a red carpet, that we are introduced to our protagonists at their latest premiere, silent movies sweethearts Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont. The story follows their working partnership and publicity-spun relationship, as the glamorous duo and their studio, Monumental Pictures, struggle to successfully transition to the revolutionary world of all-dancing, all-singing talking movies.

Adam Cooper confidently led the musical as the charming-but-substantial Lockwood, though Katherine Kingsley’s portrayal of the vacuous yet almost endearing blonde bombshell Lamont drew most of the laughs from the audience. The smell of cigarettes seemed to follow the chain-smoking leading lady on and off the stage, and despite the best efforts of a diction coach, the thick Bronx accent paired with her nasal tones equated to a singing voice that even I could surpass.

Peppy chorus girl Kathy Seldon, played by Scarlett Strallen, soon brings Lockwood back down to earth when summing up silent movies with the line “seen one, seen ‘em all”.  She reluctantly falls for his charisma, much to the dismay of Lamont, and to add insult to injury, Seldon also steps in to dub over Lamont’s vocal ineptitude. I found Strallen’s vocals to be accomplished and filled with emotion, particularly in ballad Would You.

Completing the narrative’s main line-up is studio musician and best friend to Don Lockwood, Cosmo Brown, played by Daniel Crossley. His role delivers on witty banter, and Crossley conveys a whole lot of character in one small frame. Upbeat number Make ‘em Laugh sums up his relevance to the plot succinctly, and the friendship and male camaraderie between Lockwood and Brown is defined in the tap-dancing routine for Moses Supposes.

The supporting cast and ensemble puts in a respectable performance, though the critic in me would point out that the company were slightly less-than-polished in some of the more technical dance routines.

After a fairly slow start, the much-too-long act one drew to a climax as the heavens opened and the brollys came out for Cooper’s solo performance of Singin’ in the Rain. The show wouldn’t have been complete without this iconic scene, and the technical team didn’t disappoint with the drenching – avoid the front few rows if you’re wearing your Sunday best!

Act two seemed to be over in the blink of an eye, being at least an hour shorter than its first half counterpart, and as a result, I found the ending to creep up rather abruptly. However the costumes, props, and the show’s personality spiked with colour during the latter portion, as tap dancing is properly introduced with an animated group performance of the finger-clicking tune Good Morning. As the production came to a close, the team put in great energy for the final rendition of Singin’ in the Rain, and were taking obvious enjoyment from soaking each other - and the audience.

There were no weak acting performances amongst the cast, though Crossley (Cosmo) and Kingsley (Lina) shone brightest in their comedic parts, thanks to natural timing and a rounded script. The score featured catchy melodies; however there seemed to be less emphasis placed on choreography as I’d anticipated.

Singin’ in the Rain was an enjoyable watch, and a musical which I’m sure will delight many groups. There were no real surprises throughout, staying true to the synopsis of the 60-year-old film, but this classic show will reliably provide giggles, a feel-good glow, and the occasional blast of water to keep you fully engaged.

Singin’ in the Rain is currently booking at the Palace Theatre until the 29th September. Groups of six plus, ten plus, and 40 plus people can take advantage of discounted rates for performances from Monday to Friday, plus Wednesday matinees. Senior groups of ten or more can also access reduced-priced tickets on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and Wednesday matinees.

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

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