Mayflower Theatre is currently playing host to Singin’ In The Rain, the stage adaptation of the 50s classic starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. With a stunning cast and jaw dropping set, Singin’ In The Rain is a spectacular production and an all-round feel good piece of theatre.
The Mayflower was already full upon arrival and rightly so. If the popularity of the 50s movie classic is anything to go by, this stage production will appeal to the masses. However, not all adaptations of classic movies work well on stage, so this earns Singin’ In The Rain even bigger kudos as what they have achieved is superbly in the present day, yet in keeping with the charm of the 50s original.
Historically, Singin’ In The Rain hasn’t always been adapted well to the stage. Take the 1980s version starring Tommy Steele at the London Palladium. The production, from what I have read, failed to portray any of the charm from the original movie. However, back to the present with Jonathan Church’s musical, which was first performed at the Chichester Theatre Festival in 2011 before a stint in the West End, and it’s a completely different story.
Church’s superb staging accompanied with Andrew Wight’s inventive choreography makes for an enthralling and energetic show. The choreography, though clearly influenced by Gene Kelly’s original routines often move in new and exciting directions with the lead cast working in perfect synchronicity to execute the routines on stage. Even the most famous scene is transferred to the stage superbly. I’m hoping I’m not spoiling this for anyone but it rains on stage, not once, but twice! And it is absolutely magical. It’s a fantastic touch and I loved the warning on the tickets stating that if you were sitting in the front rows of the stalls you may have gotten a little bit damp.
From the moment the voice-over advises us to turn our phones off, we are back in 1927 – mobile phones were not invented yet, so all the more reason to switch them off. Don Lockwood is played by James Lee, whom in his elegant manner and gentlemanly charm takes Gene Kelly’s role and makes it his own. Lee does not simply imitate Kelly, he adopts some of his most charming mannerisms and demonstrates his own excellent tap dancing ability through Wight’s creative choreography.
The role made famous by a young Debbie Reynolds is brought to life in this musical by Amy Ellen Richardson. She plays Kathy Selden with a great deal of charm and elegance, as well as fitting in perfectly to the lead trio, of which is completed by the star of the show, Stephane Anelli as Cosmo Brown.
The story of Singin’ In The Rain, for those of you living under a rock for the past 60 years, is about the arrival of the talkies in Hollywood. With fervent reference to Warner Brothers The Jazz Singer the story demonstrates the struggles of competing studio, Monument Pictures, to come to terms with the rise of the talkies and the move away from the, then popular, silent movie. This, in it’s essence, instantly provides humour for a modern audience. For example, the scene in which Lina Lamont, played by the amazing Vicky Binns, cannot understand mic positioning is one that leaves you laughing out loud at it’s ridiculousness particularly to the modern eye. The character of Lina Lamont embodies the early Hollywood diva and in Binns’ take on the role is perfectly executed in the musical. The British actress completely nails the whiney talentless Lina in a charming and side-splitting manner that had the whole crowd laughing out loud.
Throughout Singin’ In the Rain romance takes a back seat. The story is more about friendship than a quest for love. We learn pretty early on Don’s love for Kathy, but this isn’t the focal point to the story. For me, Singin’ In The Rain is a beautiful story about friendship, with the glue to this being the humour provided by Cosmo Brown. Anelli steals the show in this role in a way that without him, the whole musical would be little less bright. The number ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ rings true throughout the whole musical.
At times in which things are difficult humour brings everyone together, and this is usually instigated by Cosmo. Take the hilariously charming ‘Moses Supposes’ number in which Cosmo interrupts a elocution lesson that Don is having. They turn what is initially a dull and arduous process into a hilarious all singin’, all dancing performance. The staged spontaneity of musicals works so well on occasions such as this and adds to the all round charm of Singin’ In The Rain.
Anyone who doesn’t enjoy this stage adaption of Singin’ In The Rain is not prepared to be cheered. In a time where doom and gloom is all over the news, it is a much needed pick-me-up from a much loved classic. The cast at the Mayflower in Southampton were phenomenal and the theatre itself a perfect host for the musical.
Singin’ In The Rain is on at Mayflower Theatre until 5th October. You can purchase tickets here.