If you think about the Golden age of Hollywood musicals, films such as Singin’ in the Rain, Meet Me in St Louis and The Wizard of Oz probably spring to mind. These are only some of the shows produced by the famous Metro Goldwyn Mayer studio, or as it was most commonly known, MGM, you know, the one where the lion roars just before the film begins.
The show is a kind of documentary looking at the height of the Hollywood musical, mostly throughout the war period until its decline when teenagers preferred to stay home and watch television for free and spend their pocket money on the likes of Elvis and The Beatles, rather than a night at the cinema. The show provides the insider angle on the production and stars of the MGM Studio.
The small cast take on the role of narrating the studio’s story in between the much loved show tunes and do so with a lot of charm. Steven Dalziel, James Leece, Emma Kayte Saunders and Miranda Wilford are all equally strong and cover up the odd slip-ups effortlessly and with plenty of humour.
The first act focuses rather heavily on the career of one star best known for clicking together her ruby shoes, Judy Garland. We go through her career from The Wizard of Oz through to Easter Parade but much like the studio disposed of Garland, when she was not at her best, the show seems to forget the star and there is no mention of her tragic death.
One of the many highlights of the show is the group number, ‘Good Mornin” from Singin’ in the Rain. By this point in the show the actors have cemented themselves as solid triple threats but it’s a fantastic tap routine that really brings out the wow factor for this performance.
The choreography throughout the rest of the show is also superb but it can look like a bit of a struggle with such limited space and occasionally they lose synchronisation.
Another noteworthy highlight is Steven Dalziel’s rendition of, ‘Make Em Laugh’ also from Singin’ in the Rain. It’s really hard to compete with Donald O’Connor’s version so if the audience are laughing, as they do for Dalziel, it’s a clear success.
Overall it’s a worthy celebration of the studios work and really highlights the Golden era of Hollywood musicals that’s well worth the ticket.
The MGM story plays Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 25 September 2016. For more information and tickets, see Upstairs at the Gatehouse website.