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Singing in The Rain, the musical of the MGM film, from West Yorkshire Playhouse, gives London's theatre scene the freshness that you feel after a summer rain shower. It may not be the slickest of choreographed musical productions but it is a charming recreation of the famous 1952 film. Conscious of the show's film origins, director Jude Kelly has used three slide screens to project either chalk drawings or a film sequence at the rear of the stage. As the story is based at a time when Hollywood was making the transition from silent films to "talkies" this gives the audience a chance to see the swash buckling, bodice ripper silent movie that the cast are in the throes of making.
Singing in The Rain
The show opens with a radio commentator identifying the celebrities who are arriving for a party. We are the radio audience and cards are held up telling us when to applaud. The fêted couple are stars, Dan Lockwood (Paul Robinson) and his leading lady, Lina Lamont (Rebecca Thornhill). She has a voice like a high pitched squeal of pure New Jersey, he is a womanising, handsome devil. Dan Lockwood is a song and dance man turned film actor whose partner, Rosco Dexter (Tony Timberlake), has been blessed with musical composing, song and dance talent, but not looks! Dan meets Kathy Selden (Zoë Hart), a classically trained actress, who, to cut a long story short, is hired as Lena's speaking and singing voice as the silent film is remade as a talky and a musical. Dan falls for Kathy and Lena tries to scupper Kathy's career but all ends happily thanks to the inventive Cosmo.
Many of The unashamedly romantic songs are beautifully sung -- In response to Kathy's "Lucky Star" Don sings"You were Meant for Me". Cosmo sings "Make 'Em Laugh" with verve, humor and the "jump at the wall" stunt dance step! A crooner sings "Beautiful Girl" as the chorus line of authentically short and slightly plump, pretty girls dance with black and white moving photographic images behind. An elocution lesson to train Lena's voice up to scratch ends in a very professional three way tap dance as the teacher, Miss Dinsmore (Annette McLaughlin) picks up tap dancing as expertly as Don and Cosmo. There are also fun dance sequences with the ensemble dancing the Charleston and the Tango.
The first act closes with a rendering of the show's title song "Singing in the Rain" complete with a splendid supply of real rain -- enough to fill up a channel at the front of the stage so that the front row get splashed as Don jumps in the puddles! It brought delighted smiles to the faces in the audience and a few squeals from the front seats. The stage crew spent the whole interval mopping up!
I liked the imaginative use of purpose made film. All the early production technical glitches are there, including a sequence where extraneous noise, the beating of a heart, the rustle of a bodice are louder than the dialogue in the first film rushes.
There are fine performances from Paul Robinson as the handsome hero, from Rebecca Thornhill as a comically screeching, a Jean Harlow wigged, Lena and an "oh so sweet" Kathy. The finale is a joyous and impressive spectacle of pouring rain, galoshes and umbrellas as the whole company, kitted out in see through plastic macs, sou'westers and white wellingtons, reprise "Singing in the Rain". I would like to reprise the whole show but I should have to queue for returns. Having sold out almost before the reviews were printed, there is hope that this popular "feel good" show will find a West End backer. This is one spell of rain which will delight visitors to London.
Editor's Note: If you're not able to catch the London production, you can console yourself with the video of the movie which is still a best renter and available through our book store:
Singing In the Rain
vhs format . . .
Singing In theRain
|SINGING IN THE RAIN
Based on the MGM film
Original choreography by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
Screenplay and adaptation by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Directed by Jude Kelly
With: Annette McLaughlin, Adrian McLoughlin, Nikki Belsher, Tony Timberlake, Mark Channon, Paul Robinson, Rebecca Thornhill, Zoë Hart, David Lucas, Elizabeth Cooper Gee, Saskia Butler, Sarah Cortez, Wain Douglas, Ross Finnie, Ben Garner, Steven Harris, Jane Mark, Richard O'Neal, Lee Payne, Joseph Pitcher, Suzanne Toase, Claire Winsper, Philip Franks, Hope Sellars, Mitchell Gaffney, Lucas Jordan Akins, Rohan Pinnock-Hamilton
Choreography: Stephen Mear
Music Director: Mark W Dorrell
Design: Huntley Muir
Lighting Design: Andrew Bridge
Sound Design: Simon Whitehorn for Orbital
Waterist: Mario Borza
Running time: Two hours fifty minutes with an interval
The Royal National Theatre presents The West Yorkshire Playhouse production at The Olivier Theatre, RNT, London SE1 (Tube Waterloo)
Box Office: 020 7452 3000
Booking to 20th July 2000
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at based on 23rd June 2000 performance at The Olivier Theatre, RNT, South Bank, London SE1 9PX