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A CurtainUp London Review
Singin’ in the Rain
The last London production I saw, of Singin’ in the Rain, from the West Yorkshire Playhouse at the National Theatre in London celebrated the sheer tackiness of early film making but this production is altogether more polished with its state of the art wet scenes and black and white movie footage of the musical’s principals on celluloid in period looking film with primitive sound. Though tuneful, some of the musical numbers, strike me as a bit old hat and certainly most of the audience looked as if they might have enjoyed the Gene Kelly movie in the 1960s if not in the 1950s. The old hat of course does not apply to the title song which is a classic, doesn’t age and is worth the price of a ticket for the waterfest.
The rainy scenes at the end of Acts One and Two are fabulous. The rain is torrential; the dance, state of the art, and the look of sheer glee as Adam Cooper as Don Lockwood sizes up the front row as he prepares to kick huge puddle after huge puddle in their direction is brilliant. This show becomes a big water game and as much fun as playing with a Supersoaker water submachine gun on a warm sunny day.
While Scarlett Strallen is Don’s love interest, the perfectly sweet voiced heroine Kathy, Katherine Kingsley takes on the fabulous looking Lina Lamont whose Bronx speaking voice is most like one of those squeaky toys you buy in a pet shop. She keeps this disaster of a vocal register throughout and is to be commended because we know she is really a lead songstress. One could criticise screenplay authors Betty Comden and Adolph Green here for their one sided characterisation of the spoilt villainess whose voice talkies is exposing but she gets a tremendously appreciative hand from the audience at the curtain call.
This is Adam Cooper’s show with his fabulous tap dancing and tall stage presence, in his white wool coat, he is every inch the Hollywood star. However his singing voice raised a question for me. Daniel Crossley’s cheeky chappie Cosmo is somewhat toned down compared to the movie but together Don and Cosmo illustrate their lifelong friendship as they made their way up in show business from vaudeville to films. Together their comic dance routines in stripey suits with silly hats pulled over their ears are amusing.
There is good support too from Michael Brandon as a cigar wielding movie mogul. Is it really necessary for authenticity to make the audience breathe in cigar smoke? The other nasal assault is the chlorine from the water. Sandra Dickinson is Dora Bailey, the Hollywood columnist who tells us what we are looking at and the latest gossip.
Of the musical numbers, “Good Morning” is relentlessly and infectiously cheery and the love duets “You Were Meant for Me” and “Would You” pretty ballads. There is Andrew Wright’s choreography with colourful umbrellas but the Broadway Melody ballet makes us glad the once compulsory ballet number is left out of modern musicals. I am finding it difficult to explain why this production of Singin’ in the Rain did not totally charm and fill me with wonder. I think the romance between Don and Kathy was not as convincing as a big West End musical needs to be. The musical numbers of course were written before the musical so the tie into the plot is imperfect which we notice less in the movie. The show stopping number is prosaically that, the wonderfully wet finale.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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