mon 20/05/2019

Singin' in the Rain, Palace Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Singin' in the Rain, Palace Theatre

Singin' in the Rain, Palace Theatre

The forecast is sunny for the West End transfer of this classic musical

'Laughing at clouds so dark up above': Adam Cooper and cast in 'Singin' in the Rain'Manuel Harlan

Who’d have thought that a long-gone turning point in the story of cinema would be the high-concept theme of the 2011/2012 season? Hard on the heels of The Artist, the lauded silent movie in which a stubborn star can’t, or won’t, make the transition to sound, comes all all-singing, all-dancing treatment of the very same era and story in Singin’ in the Rain.

That’s not all either: a major subplot of Martin Scorsese’s film Hugo rediscovers and reinstates George Méliès, the great pioneer-director of silent cinema, as he languishes in obscurity in 1930s Paris, while over at the National Theatre Nicholas Wright’s Travelling Light highlights the key role played by Jewish immigrants in the early days of Hollywood. (Pictured below, Bérénice Bejo in The Artist).

Bérénice Bejo in The ArtistAnd perhaps it’s not, after all, so surprising. Light-hearted and upbeat, these stories are set at a time when seismic shifts were overturning the old certainties, yet their characters weather the crisis and reinvent themselves. “I’m laughing at clouds so dark up above,” belts out Don Lockwood, the hero of this new show, defying the rain. Like the musicals which it celebrates, and which audiences flocked to in order to escape the Depression, Singin’ in the Rain looks set fair to be an enormous popular hit.

The year is 1927 and Lockwood is a matinee idol in Hollywood, a song and dance man who, with his friend and sidekick Cosmo, has managed to parlay a moderate talent into a glittering career. His comfortable lifestyle now faces a double threat: the advent of the talkies and the arrival of a sweet-voiced ingénue who steals his heart, piquing the jealousy of Lockwood’s shrill co-star.

Jonathan Church’s production is colourful, fast on its feet, crackling with humour

Originally a classic 1952 MGM musical, viewed by many as the greatest movie musical of all time, this production was staged at the Chichester Festival last summer to tremendous success. And now it has made a smooth transition to the vast vaulting space of the Palace Theatre. Jonathan Church’s production is colourful, fast on its feet, crackling with humour – even the “turn off your mobile phones” pre-performance announcement becomes a little gag, and there was a throwaway joke about The Artist which no one in the audience seemed to notice at the first night. The supporting cast is uniformly strong and simpatico, and Scarlett Strallen is charming as Lockwood’s love interest.

So one wouldn’t want to rain on the parade, but the show isn’t flawless. The extended second-act Broadway Ballet number comes over as blatant padding, as it did in the film, and the dancer taking the Cyd Charisse role here doesn’t have her gloriously streamlined thighs. It’s a shame, too, that Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s original book was quite so mean-spirited towards the screeching diva who gets her comeuppance, though Katherine Kingsley is funny, vibrant and touching in this potentially thankless role.

Adam Cooper and Scarlett Strallen in Singin' in the RainThe main question-mark hovers over Adam Cooper’s ability to fill out the Lockwood character. As played in the film by Gene Kelly, Lockwood was already, let’s be honest, rather dull and Cooper is square-jawed and personable enough but takes a while to bring him alive. It doesn’t help that his voice is slightly underpowered compared to the other male cast members, and that the spoof movie clips of Lockwood in his greatest and not-so-great hits show Cooper to have a singular lack of screen charisma.

But he does enjoy a tremendous rapport with Strallen (pictured above left with Cooper) - the show contains a remarkably high snog factor - and swaggers, stamps and splashes through the show-stopping title number that closes the first act with an infectious sense of fun and little-boy naughtiness: wear sou’westers and wellies if your seat is in the first few rows. The diligent interval squad of stage hands mopping up the puddles is a little theatrical bonus in an evening packed elsewhere with cherishable moments.

Watch Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain


Like the musicals it celebrates, and to which audiences flocked to escape the Depression, this looks set fair to be an enormous popular hit

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Can't wait to see Singin' in the Rain! It's one of my favourite movies, so I know the stage version will be great.

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