Singin’ In The Rain – Review

Feb 27 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✭   A bigger splash

Festival Theatre: Tue 25 Feb – Sat 15 March 2014
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is more than the promised 12,000 litres of water covering the stage at the Festival Theatre – spectacle, enjoyment and sheer old-fashioned good fun come flooding in too.

The original film, with its tale of the coming of sound to Hollywood, and the detrimental impact of this on the careers of some of its stars, is consistently named as one of the greatest movies ever made.

Singing in the Rain at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Singing in the rain. Photo © Manuel Harlan

Its cannibalising of earlier films for hit numbers from songwriters Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown made it a ‘jukebox musical’ before the term was invented. While some of the songs can seem a little shoehorned in, it still flows better than most stage musicals, and of course some moments in the original film are as famous as anything in the history of singing and dancing.

The stage version stays very close to Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s screenplay, and any changes necessary due to the change in medium – such as lovers Don and Kathy meeting on a bench rather than having him jump into her car – are smoothly handled.

No one will ever play the main role of song-and-dance man turned silent screen idol Don Lockwood without the ghost of Gene Kelly looming large over their heads. The announcement that the part was to be played by understudy Matthew Malthouse may have further discouraged many. Malthouse, however, proves himself more than equal to the role. His singing has a suitably emotional, vulnerable air in the love songs, while his dancing is impressive and versatile.

Amy Ellen Richardson is agreeably winsome as promising performer Kathy Selden, while Stephane Anelli provides Don’s confidant Cosmo Brown with energy and humour, dancing and clowning skilfully, and adding a touch of camp while managing to stay on the right side of mannered.

Jacqueline Clarke, Paul Grunert and Maxwell Caulfield carry off smaller roles with zeal and zest, while many of the ensemble take their chance to shine, with Luke Dowling’s dancing in Moses Supposes being particularly noteworthy.

“a big, stupid grin spreading over your face…”

Faye Tozer is perhaps the night’s biggest surprise as the unfortunately-voiced silent screen star Lina Lamont. The former Steps singer displays excellent comic timing, and her performance is perfectly judged in that she is convincingly screechy and annoying without causing the audience to become annoyed.

Song and dance. Photo © Manuel Harlan

Song and dance. Photo © Manuel Harlan

Jonathan Church’s direction, Andrew Wright’s choreography and Simon Higlett’s design all help to make up a lavish, involving spectacle that never flags and does not merely trade on nostalgia. There also is thankfully little hint here of the mechanical, soulless feel that can sometimes surface in big-budget touring productions – the cast seem to be enjoying themselves every bit as much as the audience.

The orchestra relocated from the pit to the top of the stage in order to escape the rain, invest the music with punch and vivacity.

The big set-piece musical numbers are executed with as much accuracy, flair and energy as you could wish. Good Morning and Moses Supposes are genuinely breathtaking, while Make ‘Em Laugh is about as good as you could expect, considering that it has to be performed every night – and without the performer ending up in hospital as supposedly happened to Donald O’Connor in the film.

And that’s without mentioning the title number. Seeing it rain inside is probably worth the ticket price on its own – but do not wear your best outfit if you are right at the front, unless it is waterproof.

It is almost impossible to sit through the evening without a big, stupid grin spreading over your face. There is entertainment of an exceptionally high standard on offer here.

To anyone who loves the Golden Age of Hollywood, enjoys musicals, or just wants to be entertained or impressed, this is unreservedly recommended.

Running time 2 hrs 40 mins including interval
Run ends Saturday 15 March 2014
Evenings 7.30 pm, Matinees Thurs and Sat 2.30 pm
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Tickets and further details from:

The ensemble. Photo © Manuel Harlan

The ensemble. Photo © Manuel Harlan


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