Singin’ in the Rain

April 28, 2022 | By More

★★★★★   Gloriously ebullient

Festival Theatre: Tue 26 – Sat 30 April 2022
Review by Thom Dibdin

They have turned the tap full on at the Festival Theatre this week, for the return of Jonathan Church’s phenomenal production of Singin’ in the Rain, adapted from the classic MGM movie.

Not the tap to the rain machine – which functions well enough – but tap of the hoofing variety, worked seamlessly into song and dance numbers which are themselves worked seamlessly into the production.

Indeed, the first half seems to be made up of a succession of numbers which are all competing to be the most gloriously ebullient piece of theatre you have seen on stage all year. Each winning the accolade – only to be outshone by the subsequent number.

Charlotte Gooch and the Singin’ in the Rain company. Pic: Manuel Harlan

This is, of course, the stage adaptation of the movie which grew out of the idea that Singin’ in the Rain would make a great title, and continued as a walk through MGM’s Freed and Garland back-catalogue.

Thanks to Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor and Jean Hagen it did. Helped by a cleverly pitched tale of the coming of the talking pictures to Hollywood, with silent movie heart-throbs Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont taking to the talkies in somewhat different ways.

Ironically, while that title song undoubtedly makes a splash – literally so if you are sitting in the front few rows of the stalls, so be prepared to get wet – it isn’t the best number in the show. Although its catchy theme in the overture helps get the whole piece up and running before it has even officially started.

smoothly staged

Sam Lips and Ross McLaren star as Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown, who have been pals since school and formed a successful Variety duo. They are now in the (silent) movies with Cosmo providing the on-set mood music from the piano, for leading man Don’s scenes with his leading lady Lina Lamont (Faye Tozer).

Their whole backstory – as well as the complexities of Don’s relationship with Lina, who is in love with him but who he hates despite the fan magazines insistence they are to marry – is told in a cleverly choreographed and smoothly staged opening sequence.

The Singin in the Rain company. Pic: Manuel Harlan

Somehow, it moves from the queues outside the Hollywood premiere of Don and Lina’s latest film into Don and Cosmo’s signature tap routine Fit as a Fiddle and on to Don’s chance encounter with a young actress Kathy Selden (Charlotte Gooch) who isn’t totally star-struck at the sight of him and with whom he of course immediately falls head-over-heals in love.

McLaren has the bluff exterior and the moves for Cosmo. His performance of Make ’em Laugh is a brilliant piece of dance theatre that requires immense physicality from him. And yes, he does do the back-flip against the wall.

When the duo are joined by Alastair Crosswell as the dialogue coach giving Don elocution lessons before his first talkie, the dancing moves up another step for Moses Supposes. Tap and tongue twisters all at the same time? What is not to love!

musical theatre perfection

Then there is Charlotte Gooch, who is quite the standout dancer, too. In every one of the ensemble dance numbers in which she takes part, it is to her that your eye is drawn. Jonathan Church’s direction and Andrew Wright’s choreography help, of course, but she has that thrilling ability to appear to be completely casual in her attention to detail.

When Gooch joins up with Lips and McLaren for Good Morning, however, then musical theatre perfection is achieved. Little wonder that the subsequent title track in’t quite the show stopper it might be.

Faye Tozer. Pic: manuel Haran

This isn’t just about the hoofing and the singing, the cracking band (take a bow MD Grant Walsh) or Simon Higlett’s clever design which facilitates such sublimely smooth storytelling, however.

It’s about the acting too. The believable Hollywood archetypes, the spot-on comic timing and the creation and development of the relationships – between Don and Cosmo; Don and Kathy; Cosmo and Kathy, but most of all, between Don and Lina.

Ah, Lina. Faye Tozer is returning in the role and you can see why. Her Lina Lamont might not have that piercing fingernails-down-the-blackboard shriek of some Linas. Hers is far more subtle of voice. Shrill, yes, but also full-bodied and with a hilarious honking tone to some of her deliveries.

tip top and raring to go

And, as is necessary for the structure of the whole piece, her delivery of What’s Wrong With Me? is poignant enough to elicit proper sympathy for the character – which can then be dashed in a later scene.

The nature of the whole piece as a jukebox musical is most exposed in the second half, notably in the ballet sequence when suddenly Don is on Broadway – for absolutely no reason at all – and being seduced by Harriet Samuel-Gray, who takes the dancing up another level as the rather anonymously titled Broadway Melody Girl.

Everywhere you look around the stage, this 27-strong cast is tip top and raring to go. Follow a random performer in any scene and you will see a character being formed and developed. You could go every night of its week at the Festival Theatre and still be seeing new things at the end.

Running time: Two hours and 40 minutes (including one interval)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street, EH8 9FT
Tuesday 26 – Saturday 30 April 2022.
Evenings at 7.30 pm; Matinees Thu and Sat at 2.30 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

His Majesty’s Theatre, Rosemount Viaduct, Aberdeen AB25 1GL
Tue 2 – Sat 6 Aug 2022.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Glasgow King’s, 297 Bath St, Glasgow G2 4JN
Mon 8 – Sat 13 August 2022
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinees Weds/Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm.

Tickets and details: Book here.

The Singin in the Rain company. Pic: Manuel Harlan

ENDS

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