Everyone has a little (slightly wet) place in their heart for the 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain. The cast, the music, the rain, it’s movie history!
But how does the stage rendition live up to its famous progenitor?
The plot centres around the move in the 1920s from silent films to ‘Talkies’ – it’s like a lighter version of Sunset Boulevard, with a little of The Artist thrown in for good measure.
Revelling in the magic of old Hollywood, romance, and some iconic dance sequences, the film has wormed its way into the cultural consciousness and cinematic history.
Jonathan Church’s version, which debuted at the Chichester Theatre Festival in 2011, tries to recreate that magic at Sadler’s Wells in 2021.
The issue with a play filled with actors constantly discussing acting is that you must have good actors to play the actors acting – make sense?
Adam Cooper, who plays the lead role of Don Lockwood (following in Gene Kelly’s enormous shoes), is a gifted and lyrical dancer with a long career to back him up. Disappointingly, he is a rather stiff actor, with an uneven American accent. Although not a bad singer, he doesn’t have the buttery smooth croon that is expected for the character.
Strictly’s Kevin Clifton tries his best as the comedic third-wheel Cosmo Brown but has very little to bounce off with Cooper.
Charlotte Gooch as Kathy Selden again is a good dancer, but her voice isn’t quite the divine songbird we expect from the role.
Interesting side note – in the film version, Debbie Reynolds, playing Selden, was dubbed by an actress called Betty Noyes for some of the numbers. Considering the main plot has Kathy ghost-singing for Lina, this little nugget is left out of a lot of the myths around the film. Apparently, irony hadn’t been invented in 1950s Hollywood.
Anyhoooo, back on track. The film and play hinge on musical theatre’s favourite (semi-platonic) threesome. The friendship, peppy comedy, love (between Don and Kathy), trials and tribulations carry the action. In this case, the missing triangle puzzle piece is an important one.
Faye Tozer of Steps fame surprisingly makes a wonderful Lina Lamont, the acid-spitting baddie with the comedically shrill voice. She squeaks and bullies her way through the show, and her song ‘What’s wrong with me?’ is a poignant and amusing highlight.
Simon Highlett’s set and costumes are technicolor and appropriate, while Andrew Wrights’ choreography is an energetic match to the film’s ground-breaking routines. Jonathan Church’s directing is adequate, but the choices of leads lets him down.
Despite little issues like crew moving set with headphones on, it is still visually enjoyable overall. All involved dance like their lives depends on it, and this is marvellous, but it isn’t called Dancin’ in the Rain, is it? The reason the film is so successful is the leads’ ability to be triple threats.
It may be feel-good escapism but without the believability of the characters, we are left with the ever-tapping feet and demonic grins of heartless musical theatre. This leaves a hollow aftertaste that even the 6,000 litres of water drenching the stage can’t wash away.
Singin’ in the Rain ran until 5 September at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.