Long before Mamma Mia, Chicago or Les Mis. Before Grease and Hairspray there was Singin’ In The Rain. Encapsulating the golden age of Hollywood and heralding a new era of musicals, this all-singing, all-dancing classic delivered glamour on a big, shiny platter.
Originally starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds as silent movie hero Don Lockwood and chorus girl Kathy Selden, it has won over endless hearts since it made its debut in 1952, and no surprise it’s still considered by many as one of the greatest musicals of all time. So it’s a brave choice to take such a much-loved, big screen icon and adapt it to the stage for a modern audience. Thankfully, Birmingham Hippodrome’s latest production – directed by Jonathan Church – did it with aplomb.
The story introduces us to the new dawn of the “talkie” with Monumental Pictures’ biggest stars, glamorous on-screen couple Lockwood and his leading lady Lina Lamont. They have it all … a string of hit films and a studio-engineered romance under their belts, but now they must navigate their way through the end of the silent movie genre. Thing is, despite Lina’s refined on-screen persona, her adoring fans have never actually heard her cheese-grater of a Brooklyn accent, so Kathy is brought in by the big studio execs to dub over her voice.
Jenny Gaynor as Lina is just marvellous; her perfect comedy timing combined with some of the best lines in the play meant she received the majority of laughs from the audience. The scene where she records the dialogue for her first talking role was a delight to watch as her exaggerated incompetence exasperated the crew.
Sam Lips as Don and Charlotte Gooch as Kathy are wonderful together and their on-stage chemistry shone throughout. Ross McLaren as Cosmo is great fun, as are the impeccable dancers and supporting cast who never once put a foot wrong thanks to the high-energy choreography from Andrew Wright. Mentions too for Simon Higlett’s set and costume designs which captured the era so evocatively, while Tim Mitchell’s lighting brought the stage to life.
Of course the songs just keep on coming … Good Morning, Make ‘Em Laugh and Moses are those absolute belters and each one is performed superbly. But no surprise the biggest cheer of the night went to the show’s eponymous song when it actually rained on stage. Like actual rain. So much so, those in the first few rows got a liberal soaking as Lips danced and kicked his way through the puddles. One word? Magical.
From the opening note to the extended standing ovation, this production is nothing but pure joy. Yes, some of the themes are outdated (it is 70 years old after all) and the humour a little corny at times, but I would defy anyone to leave the theatre without a big beaming smile. Above all, it’s light-hearted, energetic and so so happy – and who couldn’t do with a bit of that right now.
Singin’ In The Rain runs at The Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday June 11. For tickets and more information click here.