It is impossible to view any production of ‘Singing in the Rain’ without filtering the experience, for those who have seen it, through Kelly’s iconic film. This production flirts cleverly with the monumental movie, extending and evolving the original score, padding out story and giving time to develop characters (like Lina’s indigence and Don’s first moment of love) but always keeping the film insight. The production did not simply copy-and-paste the cinematic scenes and choices were made in the name of theatricality rather than cinematic loyalty. Referring to the film with gusto – the upturning of the sofa, or rather bench; the globe-topped street lamp – and introducing new developments with equal confidence and efficiency. Overall we have a production which will put a smile on your face.
I actually preferred a lot of the new numbers to the filmic ones. ‘You Stepped Out of a Dream’ had the same romantic weight as ‘Lucky Star’ and was accompanied by inventive, fresh group chorography; crowd sequences were a vital strength of the performance. But it was impossible to see ‘Broadway Melody’ (or ‘Broadway Ballet’) without the overlaying vision of the film’s fantastical, dream-like sequence. It was superbly danced but instead of being the stand-out power-house of a number it was simply really good. Despite the nagging need to see this particular number live on stage, I felt – in the overall scheme of the production – it didn’t sit comfortably and its presence was slightly peripheral. As previous productions have done so, Cathy was incorporated into the sequence, perhaps for the purpose of reassuring the audience Don would not fall for the exotic stranger, or to assert her purity in the face of the stranger’s sexuality. Whatever the purpose, the sequence’s inclusion seemed unnecessary and confusing. Similarly, the beginning flashback was not explored to its fullest extent and didn’t rouse the audience into fond amusement.
Instead of being the stand-out power-house of a number it was simply really good
This musical was self-consciously a theatrical production in its own right – irrespective of its filmic counterpart. Framing of the production through the grey, lifeless backdrop of Monumental Pictures captured the themes of performance, Hollywood artifice and spectacle in a manner which film simply cannot. It felt much more real, much more absorbing, to watch Lamont and Lockwood films on a projected screen. We were engaged in the debate of theatre vs film; ghosts vs flesh and blood. The liveliness of watching a man soaking wet, dancing, singing, smiling, was a spectacle with the power to make one grin and glow with some indescribable pleasure. We admire the warm grin of Gene Kelly as he glides through the famous number but, in the theatre, we engage with the warmth.
There is no denying the tremendous standard of performance among this company. Characters were well established but, at points, lines were sometimes rushed and punch lines hurried over. For me, the female leads shone out above the men – Amy Ellen Richardson (Cathy) and Faye Tozer (Lina Lamont) were expressive and characterful; actors as well as performers. Matthew Malthouse (Don Lockwood) was more comfortable during the numbers, he gave a solid characterisation of the strong, romantic Don but it was through his singing and dancing that this was most keenly conveyed. Stephane Anelli gave an incredibly quirky, incredibly camp, Cosmo Brown (was there a sly romantic attachment to Don?) and he made ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ his own.
The overall chorography and directorial decisions were profound and well-considered, quiet points were properly marked with minimal moment and big numbers were inventively constructed. However there were a few odd decisions which either did not work or were not properly followed through. The hardly-used laundry basket, during ‘Moses’, seemed irrelevant; the aeroplane for ‘Beautiful Girls’– hot pants in the 1920s? RAF pilots?; and the glowing paving stones, all seemed equally unnecessary. But these were small ruffles in an overall smooth and enchanting production.
These were small ruffles in an overall smooth and enchanting production
Orthodox fans of the film may disagree, but when this production spoke for itself what it said was worth listening to – it sung and sparkled with pure skill and excellence.
Eve Wersocki Morris
Singing in The Rain is running at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham from Tuesday 4th February till Saturday 15th February. For more information and to book tickets, visit the website here