If you feel like splashing out on a visit to the theatre in the near future, you'll get more splash for your cash with this new stage version of the 1952 film of the same title. Still regularly voted best film musical, 'Singin' In The Rain' not only starred the maestro of dance, Gene Kelly, but was also directed by him. With that kind of pedigree, it's a tough act to follow, but that hasn't stopped others from taking the plunge and reviving the film for the stage. Tommy Steele and the National have had a go, and this time it is the Chichester Festival Theatre's turn to see what kind of theatrical downpour they can come up with.
The show is based on a story which takes yet another look at the days of silent films. In this case, the talkies are just making their entrance, and two of the silent era's most famous stars – Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont – have to make the difficult transition of using their voices in their latest film. The problem is that Lina Lamont has a New Yorker accent that would shatter glass at 100 paces. So a plan is hatched to dub her voice with that of Kathy Seldon, who has just managed to capture the heart of the leading man. It is not exactly the most riveting or inventive of plots, but it has just about enough hooks to hang all the songs on. And the songs are infectiously memorable almost to the point of turning one into a demented wreck because you simply cannot get them out of your brain. The title song is particularly well-known and much-loved, but there are plenty of others which most people will recognise instantly such as 'Make 'em Laugh', 'You Were Meant for Me' and 'Good Morning'.
If you are determined to sit in the front stalls, you'll get more than a visual impression of the excellent Adam Cooper dancing his way through a cloudburst as there's plenty of water squirting out from the stage in the direction of the first few rows. But nobody seemed to mind and it actually added to the fun for the rest of the audience. And to make full use of the watery technology that delivers the effect, the scene is repeated at the end of the show with all the cast involved. One can only feel sympathy for Naomi Weight's wardrobe department who must be kept busy until dawn, getting all the kit dry for the next performance.
From the audience's perspective, it all went swimmingly, even if some of them got a bit more of a drenching than they were expecting. A standing ovation was the order of the day come the curtain calls, and it is fairly easy to see why. It has wonderfully hummable songs which are the essential element of a really great musical, and Andrew Wright's vibrant choreography sparkles, and the energetic tap dancing, in particular, is superb. In fact, Jonathan Church's production is almost everything that one could wish for from this kind of musical. However, the plot is thinner than a raindrop and in consequence we never feel very much empathy with or concern for the characters. And the experience of watching a stage re-make of a 60 year old film does leave one yearning for something new of equal vitality and entertainment value. As a revival, though, it will be hard to beat.
"Splendid staging...the show offers almost three hours of continuous pleasure...This is a night of sheer delight. "
Charles Spencer for Daily Telegraph
"It's crowd-pleasing stuff. The memory of Gene Kelly may not be banished, but this is a buoyant revival, lit up by Andrew Wright's superlative choreography."
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard
"A show that never puts a foot wrong."
Richard Fairman for The Financial Times
"Fizzing, joyous production...it is entirely irresistible.."
Mark Shenton for The Stage
"Contains sequences as rapturously enjoyable...What mars the show, for me, is that there are places where the desire to do nothing if not knock the audience dead again and again brings in a faintly metallic and driven feel to the proceedings."
Paul Taylor for The Independent