The story set in 1920s Hollywood, concerns Lina Lamont, a great star of the silent movie era. The first talking movie has just been made and it is a great success. Now all the film studios try to get in on the act, including the studio Lamont works for. However, when the studio decides to film the first movie musical Lamont faces difficulties because not only can she not dance or sing, but she is also inflicted with a horrible voice.
This musical is certainly a trip down memory lane with memorable songs such as 'Good Morning', 'Make 'em Laugh', 'Moses Supposes', and of course 'Singin' in the Rain', so why did I not enjoy it as much as I thought I would? Maybe it is because the film version is so good with the great Gene Kelly that I was somewhat spoilt. Or maybe its because I found two of the main leads not quite up to the part?
Paul Robinson playing 'Don Lockwood', does not look natural in this part. His body seems too stiff which makes his dancing seem too rigid at times, and his talking voice did not seem sincere or naturally flowing. However, he does have an adequate singing voice and he certainly has the looks of a hunky film star, but I do believe the part of 'Don Lockwood', needs a more 'easy flowing' actor with some charisma. A Gene Kelly he is not!! Zoe Hart as 'Kathy', the girl whom Don falls in love with, is wooden and again does not look the part. In fact, she looks like a 90s girl, particularly with her short modern haircut. She too has a good singing voice, but again her acting style is not convincing for this part. These two leads sadly take the shrine off the musical, but all is not lost as there are some excellent performances from the rest of the cast. Rebecca Thornhill is impressive as 'Lina Lamont'. She has great timing and delivery and how she manages to perform each night with that squeaky voice I do not know, but it is very convincing. There is a notable performance from Mark Channon as ' Cosmos Brown'. He certainly has a natural feel for the part and captures the mood of the 20s and the film version perfectly. There is an astounding performance by Annette McLaughlin in the role of the elocution teacher, grossly over the top, but it works and produces a great scene.
The show uses computerised graphics and clips of silent movies that are clever and funny which add a nice sense of the era. There is also some delightful choreography with tango and tap dancing. However, the production, lasting nearly 3 hours, does stall and drag a little, but it does keep coming back to life enough to keep you interested to the end.
The show has received reasonable reviews from the popular press…THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Jude Kelly's multi-media production of Singin' in the Rain.... is staged with playful bravura." THE INDEPENDENT says, "The big questions are: why mess with a masterpiece? Why stage a movie about movies? Because you've got genius choreographer Stephen Mear, that's why." THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "It is astonishing how often the show meets the movie on the latter's terms and comes off undefeated by the comparison." NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD did not like it headlining , "Making heavy weather of this classic" He goes on to say the show lacked sharpness. PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE liked the show saying, "Splashing good time for all". JANE EDWARDES for TIME OUT also generally liked the show saying, "It would be extremely surprising if, after its short run at the National, it didn't leap into the West End where it rightly belongs."
'Singin' in the Rain' is a bit of a hit and miss affair, but it is still worth seeing for the 'hit' parts and of course those classic songs. One word of warning though, if you have tickets for seats at the front of the stalls, then you had better take an umbrella!!