I had heard that Singin’ In The Rain The Musical is excellent; originally arriving in London in the early 1980s and enjoying various revamps and relative popularity between then and 2012. However I must point out now that I am a die-hard fan of 1940s and 50s Hollywood musical comedies. I was 9 years old when Leonardo DiCaprio became the poster boy for tweenage sexual awakening in Romeo + Juliet and Titanic but thanks to Rock Hudson, Carey Grant and Howard Keel, I just didn’t get it. Consequently I arrived at the Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue feeling optimistic for the evening’s performance but fairly certain of one thing: there is only one Gene Kelly.
For those unfamiliar with either the film or the musical, Singin’ In The Rain is a rare slice of movie history. Set in 1927 Hollywood, a major fictional studio Monumental Pictures must make the gargantuan leap from silent films to talking pictures when a rival studio releases and smashes box offices with the first talkie, ‘The Jazz Singer.’ The stars for the job are leading man Don Lockwood and his on-screen and tabloid paramour Lina Lamont.
Unfortunately for Monumental, Lina was not graced with a voice to match her looks and Don would sooner shack up with his best friend Cosmo Brown than entertain Lina’s romantic delusions. Don Lockwood is destined for greater things, such as the talented and adorable aspiring actress Kathy Selden who will steal his heart and help him and Cosmo change the face of motion pictures. It is a wonderful story, laced with history and intertextual nods which have made Singin’ In The Rain truly timeless. It is a story which – not to mention all the singing, dancing and gallivanting – revels in talent, new technology and pushing boundaries.
As I took my seat in the stalls whilst the orchestra warmed up I was faced with the enormity of what this production had dared to live up to. Two and a half hours later, I (and several hundred other people) emerge through the theatre doors elated, grinning and filled with the incomparable afterglow one experiences after witnessing magic. The show has been exquisitely staged and directed by Jonathan Church and Andrew Wright’s choreography is deft and imaginative whilst remaining faithful to Gene Kelly’s original design. The cast and ensemble are simply superb. Adam Cooper gives a robust performance as Don Lockwood alongside Daniel Crossley whose blithe portrayal of Cosmo Brown injects much of the clean, cocky charm contemporary comedy sorely lacks. Scarlett Strallen makes for an amiable Kathy but was a little overshadowed by a shameless (and shrill) Katherine Kingsley as Lina Lamont. In some respects she is a relatively unexplored character in the film but stage Lina packs a massive punch.
The stage performance enhances the story’s texture through its carefully crafted multimedia including pre-recorded screen projections and mesmerizing realisations of various fantasy sequences from the film. The wow factor, of course, is the big ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ number; lamentably made famous to some by a VW Golf. During this triumphant spectacle 14,000 litres of water are pumped from and recycled back into a 10 tonne water tank in the orchestra pit ready for the next performance. As you can imagine, the first few rows are a dedicated Splash Zone and as Adam Cooper tapped, kicked and smashed his way through the cascading water the audience cackled and whooped with glee: 90% because they weren’t getting wet and 10% because they were.
If you’re a fan of good, honest entertainment then Singin’ In The Rain The Musical is almost a vital accompaniment to the original movie. It is worth seeing not because it exceeds its source but because it renews the viewer’s appreciation of the incredible talent it takes to act, sing and dance a part like Don Lockwood. Considering the current and underwhelming spectrum of X Factor churn outs it is truly a sight for sore and jaded eyes. I maintain that there is only one Gene Kelly and I have yet to see his signature masculine grace reincarnated but the soul of the original film, the talent and sheer joy of it are all present.
For more information about Singin’ In The Rain The Musical visit www.singinintherain.co.uk