Singin’ in the Rain – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Singin’ in the Rain – Review
Bradford Alhambra, September 2014
by Sandra Callard
The epitome of 1950’s musicals, consistently voted one of the best film musicals of all time, and even coming tenth in a 2012 poll of the greatest films ever made – yes, if you are over 60 you will remember Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain. The dancing is mesmerising, the songs perfection, and it remains the ultimate example of its genre. In this touring stage production you live again the glorious sets, costumes, songs, fantastic dancing and, of course, the never-to-be-forgotten, song and dance routine in the rain.
That’s the blurb. Now down to the real nitty-gritty. You really do get all of the above. Jonathan Church’s touring production comes pretty near to matching the genius of the film. Which, let’s be honest, nothing can ever hope to top. But the dancing is superb, with everything relying on split second timing. In film, of course, they can repeat each take until they get it right. On stage they have only one chance. This brilliant cast delivers, in spades, with timing so precise it takes your breath away.
“Elegance and panache”
The show tells the story of Hollywood in the 1920s as it moves towards talkies. It includes the inevitable shedding of previously successful stars of the silent films. Sadly, their voices can not match their acting. James Leece (Don Lockwood) and Amy Ellen Richardson (Kathy Selden) take the two leads. They deliver with elegance and panache. Richardson is tall and willowy, with the voice of an angel. She dances superbly, but it is with the grace of Cyd Charisse rather than the exuberance of Debbie Reynolds. Leece has similar stature, so they complement each other. But I miss perhaps an element of joy and chemistry in their relationship.
Not so with the second lead, Stephane Anelli. He plays Cosmo Brown, the goofing, clowning friend of Don. He possesses such an amount of energy and fun that it borders on madness. His delivery of ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ is every bit as good as Donald O’Connor’s in the film. Indeed, so is the trio’s rendition of ‘Moses Supposes’ with Don and Cosmo. Luke Dowling plays the the surprising addition of the dialect coach and turns in a fantastic performance.
“Love and abandonment”
But the star of the show has to be the fading silent star, Lena Lamont. Vicky Binns plays her superbly. She conjures up a shrieking corncrake voice in an accent that says ‘caint’ instead of ‘can’t’. They will never allow her anywhere near the talkies. Known mainly for her long role in Coronation Street as Molly Compton, she is an real bonus to watch. Surely she runs the risk of developing laryngitis, or worse! The pull down screen on stage shows her attempts to talk into a microphone she can’t see. The director’s (played brilliantly by Paul Grunert) attempts to contain his frustrations are hilarious.
The long awaited title scene when Don is ‘singing in the rain’ has to wait until the end of Act 1. As gallons of water land on stage, on James Leece and, incidentally, on the first two rows of the stalls, it has to be mopped up before Act 2. Leece does a sterling job. He is an elegant and superb dancer, but still lacks the outpouring of joyous love and abandonment that must be there to make the scene believable.
This is a technically superb production with a polished and accomplished cast. To put it plainly, it is two and a half hours of glorious entertainment.