Updated: Aug 7, 2021
Revivals of classic Hollywood musicals seem to be a big trend at the moment. Having the unenviable task of opening just one day after the rave reviewed Anything Goes, fellow classic Singin' In The Rain returns to London for a limited season.
While the timeless film it is based on was released back in 1952, the musical version of it is actually newer than most would realise. Originating in the West End in 1983 with this latest production first appearing in 2011. It has now returned to Sadler's Wells ahead of embarking on a 2022 UK tour. Fittingly for the press night, it was pouring as we made our way into the venue. I don't think we can credit this production for that but talk about immersive theatre!
Singin' In The Rain is essentially a show within a show. Setting the scene in 1920s Hollywood, we watch our stars as they make movies and embrace the change as Hollywood moved towards talking pictures. As well as this, we see them in their personal lifes battling personal relationships and suddenly changeable weather.
Leading the cast in the role of Don Lockwood is Adam Cooper, who has become synonymous with the role since first playing it in 2004. It is clear to see why he keeps being invited back for the various productions as he charms, taps and (of course) sings his way through the production with ease. While it may seem impossible to take on a role that everybody associates with Gene Kelly, such is the level of his talent that you fully believe he becomes the character without making obvious comparisons.
While Don is literally the star of the show, this is very much an ensemble piece and what an ensemble they have gathered for it. Faye Tozer swaps the arenas she is used to playing with Steps for a star turn as Lina Lamont. While Faye is a very capable singer, she doesn't get the chance to showcase her vocals in this (Some might say that's a tragedy), instead playing the role for laughs as the questionably talentless Lamont. The moment Faye opens her mouth (and is allowed to speak) she has the audience in the palm of her hands with hilarious comic timing and landing the funniest moments of the night. Though the idea of someone having to dub over her vocals may not sit well with Steps fans, Faye is clearly having the time of her life in a role that shows off her comic capabilities and versatility as an actress. Her big act 2 number 'What's Wrong WIth Me?' becomes a surprising highlight in a show that is full of bigger numbers.
Lina's nemesis is Kathy Selden, played wonderfully by Charlotte Gooch. Whether she is flirting with Don, dubbing over Lina or bursting out of a cake, every moment she is on stage is a triumph. Full of charisma and immeasurable stage presence, she is an absolute revelation in the role. Cavin Cornwall and Sandra Dickinson also give standout turns as RF Simpson and Dora Bailey respectfully, with Dickinson doubling as the dialect coach who is lumbered with the mission of teaching Lina to talk properly. Think My Fair Lady but less successful.
The last major role in the show is that of Cosmo Brown, played by Strictly Come Dancing alumni Kevin Clifton. Now making himself known more for musical theatre, it is clear to see why he keeps being cast as he effortlessly sings and dances with the best of them on that stage. Knowing when to take a step back and let others shine, Cliftons stage presence is undeniable - when he is front and centre, he ensures all eyes are well and truly on him. His big act one number 'Make 'Em Laugh' sees him test out his comedy chops for a complex performance full of precision and a whole lot of laughs.
Of course Singin' In The Rain is known for its big title song - one of the most iconic numbers in movie and musical history, when it finally appears at the end of act one, it doesn't disappoint. As water pours down on to the stage, Cooper faithfully recreates that timeless sequence as he brilliantly kicks water on to the first few rows (known as the splash zone for a reason - their flinches and screams provided an extra layer to this performance). Beautiful to witness and flawleesly executed, it is an absolute joy to witness. It's reprise with the full cast in the finale ensures you leave the theatre with a big smile on your face (and an umbrella in hand judging by the weather).
It would be easy to dismiss this as a one-number show, but there are other highlights dotted throughout the piece. The aforementioned 'Make 'Em Laugh' and the equally iconic 'Good Morning' provide highlights in the show while fans of tap dancing get their fair share in numbers throughout. Another standout is the big 'Ballet' sequence in act 2 which provides fantastic staging reminiscent of 42nd Street.
Dazzling set pieces, fantastic staging, some truly timeless numbers and most importantly a wonderful cast make Singin' In The Rain truly stunning to witness. Add to that the extra level of pre-filmed video sequences added an extra level to this show, what you are left with is something truly special. While it might suffer through comparisons to that other big tap-dancing all-singing (though not in the rain) show, it shouldn't dampen anyone's reasons to see this - Singin' In The Rain stands up on its own and should easily be enjoyed by any self respecting lover of musical theatre.
Singin' In The Rain plays at Sadlers Wells Theatre until September 5th before embarking on a UK tour next year. Tickets from http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2021/singin-in-the-rain/
Photos by Manuel Harlan