The film version of Singin’ in the Rain starring musical legends of the silver screen, Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, is a classic that really presents the grand and the lavish of musical theatre. It’s a comedy set against the bright lights of the Hollywood industry with the famed tap routines that Kelly is still envied for long after his death. I’m sorry to say that, being a fan of the film, I entered the Chichester Festival Theatre concerned that my expectations were too high for me to really sit back and enjoy the show. I’m very pleased to report that fortunately the team behind this production, working with an incredibly talented cast, left me beaming.
The production has many a challenge to tackle: large scale tap numbers, film sequences, dream-esque numbers, and of course THAT well-loved number, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. Every challenge is tackled head-on and leaves the audience applauding at every opportunity with gusto – even mid-scene, as you can’t quite believe how well this production moves effortlessly with a cast which delivers a performance with endless amounts of energy.
Daniel Crossley puts on a wonderfully amusing performance as the piano-playing sidekick Cosmo Brown, being offered the stage to perform ‘Make ’em laugh’, resulting in a good gag based on the film’s famous “walking up the wall” trick. Scarlett Strallen as the love interest and aspiring actor Kathy Selden shows the upmost versatility, with great moments of confidence beautifully balanced with scenes of venerability. Strallen manages this balance convincingly and you really become connected with her and her journey. The role that comes with the biggest shoes to fill is leading man Don Lockwoo, made famous by Gene Kelly, and Adam Cooper valiantly succeeds. With the dashing looks of a Hollywood star, Cooper’s poise and presence are incredibly engaging and his lyric vocals melt you into your seat, in particular when he sings out to Kathy in ‘You were meant for me’.
When you put this trio together and add in tap routines, they are truly breathtaking. Choreographer Andrew Wright has lovingly, and with obvious dedication, brought the twenties alive with numbers that have the audience tapping along. But it is the highly-charged tap numbers that are really a joy! Recreated by the talented trio who rise to the demands of Wright’s choreography and seemingly perform and sing the numbers effortlessly, numbers such as ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Moses Supposes’ left me exhausted! When joined by an equally talented and versatile ensemble of tappers, you very easily get swept up in the wealth of talent before you.
It would be a crime not to include a special mention for Katherine Kingley as Lina Lamont. A wonderfully annoying character to everyone on stage, Kingsley commits to the voice that causes all the problems in this piece but has the audience howling from the very moment she enters. It’s quite a rarity to sit amongst an audience who felt inclined to applaud her after every closing line to her time on stage. That is no mean feat, but her performance deserves the applause at the curtain call.
The fact is they all do. The band hidden in the rafters, lead by Robert Scott, bring the beautiful score to life, recreating that epic Hollywood sound that was very much a staple for the era. The set is marvellous, incorporating all elements required for each scene whilst surprising the audience right till the very end, proving that designer Simon Higlett has realised the brief and taken it much, much further for this talented cast to work with.
Singin’ in the Rain is a humorous musical that really encapsulates a pocket of time. Director Jonathan Church has successfully recreated this in Chichester and it really makes for a wonderful evening of theatre, with spectacle created by the talent before you rather than the gimmicks that play out to many West End theatre audiences.
Sadly the run at the Festival theatre has now finished but watch this space, as I am pretty certain we can expect this production in the West End very soon.