Singin’ in the Rain – Review – Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

Singin’ in the Rain – Review – Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

By Clare Jenkins, July 2022

In a week that started with Britain sweltering in temperatures that reached into record-breaking low 40s, what a joy to be reminded – and so blockbusteringly – of rain. It was all many in the audience could do not to join the cast on stage and splash exuberantly about in the deluge and the puddles (15,000 litres of recycled water each night, apparently).

Last September, theatre writer David Jays pointed out in The Times that: “You can’t blame fun-starved audiences for wanting a gulp of good-time glitz.” In the piece, he also quoted Andrew Lloyd Webber saying: “Oklahoma! was such a huge success [when it opened in the 1940s] because it was so joyous and uplifting when things were a bit rough. People don’t want to go to something that is too heavy.”

Well, if there’s one thing Jonathan Church’s revival of his 2011 Chichester Festival show isn’t, it’s heavy. On the contrary, it’s light, joyful, energetic, fast, flawless, fun – and very, very feelgood. (That’s enough alliterative adjectives: Ed).

Singin’ in the Rain – Review – Sheffield Lyceum Theatre dance

Ross McLaren as Cosmo Brown and (R) Sam Lips as Don Lockwood

“Rise to the task”

From the brilliantly inventive duet between vaudeville stars and best friends Don and Cosmo (plus violins) to the encore, when the whole raincoated cast dance and twirl multi-coloured umbrellas to a reprise of the title song, this is a consistently entrancing treat. The 1952 MGM film starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds is still regarded as one of the greatest film musicals of all time. But they would have had the luxury of numerous takes. These actors don’t. They’re live every night – and they all rise to the task magnificently.

The one-plot show tells of a famous Hollywood silent-movie couple, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, confronted with the birth of the talkies in the form of Warner Brothers’ Jazz Singer. While Don (a smooth Sam Lips) can make the transition, Lina (Jenny Gayner) can’t – because her voice sounds like the rasp of a corncrake or the squawk of Donald Duck. To the rescue comes aspiring actress Kathy Selden (charmingly played by Charlotte Gooch) who dubs her voice onto the film – and falls in love with Don, and he with her, in the process.

Singin’ in the Rain – Review – Sheffield Lyceum Theatre sam lips

Sam Lips, Ross Mclaren and company member


It’s not the most complicated storyline, but it serves as the basis on which to build a show that’s athletic and balletic, tender and funny, and wonderfully imaginative, at the same time. There’s Sandra Dickinson, for instance, as the non-singing, non-dancing Louella Parsons-style gossip columnist, who introduces the cast and interviews them gushingly at various points throughout.

Then there are Ian Galloway’s witty black-and-white video clips, complete with archaic title cards, which show us the lead couple’s onscreen work for Monumental Pictures. The Three Musketeer-like fight scene in The Royal Rascal is particularly funny, but even that is outshone by the out-of-synch clips from the couple’s first talkie – The Duelling Cavalier.

And the scene where the film’s ever more despairing director (Michael Matus) wrestles with Lina’s inability to use a microphone is as funny as they come, not least because of Gayner’s haughty grace, disdaining to bother with such trifling matters as technology. So the mic fails to pick up her voice, does pick up her heartbeat, and finally resounds to the sound of her rustling her pearl necklaces. A true diva, she may see herself as “a real cultured pearl”, but this is a woman who thinks the Gettysburg Address is where someone lives. As the ever-affable, consistently comic Cosmo Brown (Ross McLaren) sings, “Make ‘Em Laugh!”, which he does, with the help of ladders, planks, sofas – and a brick wall.

Singin’ in the Rain – Review – Sheffield Lyceum Theatre charlotte gooch

Charlotte Gooch and Sam Lips


The dialogue comes fast and furious, as do choreographer Andrew Wright’s effervescent dance moves – tap dancing, ballet, romantic schmoozes, the vampy seduction of the Broadway Melody dream sequence. Equally fast come the slapstick, the pratfalls, and the songs – ‘You Are My Lucky Star’, ‘Good Morning’, ‘You Were Meant For Me’, ‘Moses Supposes’, ‘Gotta Dance’… And, of course, that title song, which ends the first half as rain showers down onto the stage and soaks Don’s suit while he splashes and dances and hangs off the famous lamppost. It’s all seamless, stamina-filled and made to look so effortless.

Simon Higlett’s Art Deco set and costumes – from the women’s glitzy dresses, jewellery and luxurious furs to the men’s Woman’s Realm-style sleeveless pullovers – help maintain the 1920s illusion. For a few hours, we’re in Hollywoodland and its golden age of movies. So it was a shock to leave the theatre and find ourselves back in 2020s Sheffield – where it still wasn’t raining.

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is at Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 23rd July


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