The Palace Theatre in London
“Come on with the rain I’ve a smile on my face”
In Hollywood in the 1920s, silent stars begin to panic as talking pictures take over. Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown see this as the perfect opportunity to sing and dance on stage but Don’s screen partner Lina Lamont is lacking in any talent. He has, however, met and fallen for singing sensation Kathy who agrees to dub Lina in a film musical.
Singin’ in the Rain is a seminal film musical and I am a film musical buff. I was very careful approaching this show not just because past productions have not been praised or that the classic the film critic in me (which is a big part of me) feels should it remain untouched. The main problem I had was the feeling there was nothing that could be added to the film by putting it stage. Other movicals I had seen like Hairspray had embellished the film to make it a true musical but Singin’ in the Rain was already a great musical. Despite my mixed feelings, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I also owed my Nan a trip to a show she would actually like.
I needn’t have worried. Sitting in the theatre I could have completely forgot the film version. It felt in every way like a traditional book musical. Though Gene Kelly is not easy to replace, seeing that amazing dancing live is another thing altogether. Adam Cooper was able to pull off the role by dancing, singing and having absolutely irresistible charm. As soon as he begin to sing the ‘do do do do do do do’ of the title song, the audience clapped in anticipation. If it weren’t for the shrieks of people in the front row who got wet, it would have been perfect. I really appreciated ‘The Broadway Melody’ on-stage with people running around in bright colours dancing. The lighting was great in creating the mood and transforming the whole stage. It was an array of light and colours that deserves a place on the stage. The whole number is a pitch by Cosmo and once it is done Cosmo is out of breath as if he had been explaining it all. He is then asked to tell it again and faints. The show seamlessly develops on the comedy style of the film like this but even original lines are freshened by a more hammed up performance in the case of Cosmo or Lina.
Songs from the film were embellished so simply, ‘You Stepped Out of a Dream’ is sung by Don as in the film. Yet after one verse Kathy is perplexed by his singing to her and calls over a policeman to deal with her stalker. The policeman immediately joins in the song followed by others in the street, making it a chorus number.
At first Kathy’s speaking voice seemed shrill and her opening lines are somewhat clunky but her singing makes you forget that small part. In a film you rely less on the actual talent of a singer than on shots of the on-screen audience’s reaction to tell you that a singer is impressive. As Kathy sang ‘You are my Lucky Star’ there was no denying the talent.
The overture was played with the company acting as extras, costume staff and directors at monumental pictures. I suppose it was meant to give the feeling of a Hollywood studio but there weren’t that many people and they were only on half the stage. It was no ‘Let’s Have Lunch’ from Sunset Boulevard or the choreographed opening scene in Guys and Dolls. Lina Lamont’s screeching voice is comedy gold and naturally they would want to develop on that by giving her a song. I have no objection to that but her song ‘What’s Wrong with Me’ ironically has something quite wrong with it that you can’t quite describe. It isn’t funny or catchy and doesn’t take advantage of this deluded character who says words funny. I would have expected something along the lines of ‘Adelaide’s Lament’ in Guys and Dolls instead of this nothing of a song. But these last comments are really nit-picking at what is overall a brilliant musical.