It’s been seventy long years since Gene Kelly hung from a movie lantern singing and dancing and splashing in the rain, and since Donald O’Connor danced up a wall just to make her laugh. It’s been almost forty years since Tommy Steele starred in the first stage version. But we love it anyway, so here we are with another upbeat, humorous production from sing in the rainfull of song, dance, color and splendour.
The hills of Hollywoodland lie prettily above the stately backdrop for the film production, Monumental Studios – a monumental setting on which all scenes take place, indoors and dry, as well as outdoors and soaking wet. As strategic props and a busy cast (and water) come and go, unforgettable music and a lively orchestra provide great support and encouragement for all singing and dancing talent. Superb lighting conjures up tastefully subdued everyday bleakness as well as glamour, with the bold blocks of glorious, vibrant color filling the clearly drawn art deco geometry, always beautiful and atmospheric, never overbearing. The divine 1920s outfit creations, especially those of the ladies, are also magnificent in style, elegance and verve, special joys for the eye and soul.
The plot stays close to the original, which is set in the late 1920s, when sound recording is suddenly invented and famous silent film stars Don (quite thoroughly) Lockwood and the beautiful (but deluded) Lina Lamont, played by Sam Lips and Jenny Gaynor, appear , are forced to supplement their mute acting skills with speaking. Easier said than done – or in Lina’s case, not so easy to say! Aside from the rain pelting the stage, Jenny Gaynor is the biggest wow and crowd favorite as the ego-inflated, unmusical Lina. Her throaty, deafening nasal whine and ugly, distorted vocals are sure to provide as much hilarity as Jean Hagen did in the 1952 film. Her acting is great too, and her singing is terrific – deliberately and skillfully, of course.
The girl Don falls in love with, however, is the humble, down-to-earth singer/dancer Kathy Seldon, another favorite, played by Charlotte Gooch, a particularly lovable dancer who is a pleasure to watch and a good singer too. Lips and Gooch’s chemistry is touching enough to work well, as with lucky Star in the fog and ladder scene for example and in Would you. Clowning around is Ross McLaren as pianist/comedian Cosmo Brown, who duets with Don over and over again during a memorable surgery Moses assumes his toes are roses. And yes, to crowd estimate, McLaren does somersault off a vertical wall just to make them laugh. The trio is happy Good morning also to the point, and it’s light, bright humor throughout.
Some of the comedy, particularly the physical slapstick, might have more of a mechanical delivery than a natural flow since the cast aren’t polished comedians, but it’s still very entertaining. The talented ensemble provides high-energy gel and constantly dances, sings and acts everywhere, while strong support is given to characters like Dora Bailey and RF Simpson and the fantastically talented dancer, who pulls off a slinky, sultry cameo, bathed in bright red. Extremely bright Also effective and entertaining is the cinema-scale showing of pre-recorded sections of Don and Lina Dueling Cavalier and Dancing cavalier in black and white but with crisp, modern clarity – perhaps a new experience for young audience members.
So there are sparks, laughter and happiness everywhere, plus a lamp post and heavy rain. Exactly what we all need.
Eileen Caiger Gray
Glasgow and Plymouth will see the show next. For more informations Click here.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, SHEFFIELD LYCEUM, JULY 20, 2022
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