The cast of Singin' in the Rain get a soaking... and so does the front row of the stalls!

Review: Singin’ in the Rain certainly gives you that glorious feeling!

Tuesday 12 April 2022

It's regularly been voted as one of the most popular films ever made in musical genre terms but Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1952 Singin’ in the Rain masterpiece from Hollywood's golden era has become just as popular having transferred to the stage, writes Alan Wooding.

Its songs have become so iconic that just like many of Andrew Lloyd Webber's shows, you're just as likely to be humming them before entering the theatre as you are on the way out. When Milton Keynes Theatre announced last year that Singin’ in the Rain would be part of a 2022 nationwide tour, I jumped at the chance to review it… and I certainly didn't come away disappointed!

Directed by Jonathan Church, the tour opened at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre last month and with Steps' all-rounder Faye Tozer and Broadway regular Sam Lips playing the iconic roles of Lina Lamont and Don Lockwood respectively, together they help bring Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed's memorable songbook to life.

I actually watched the film – which made megastars of Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds – on television a month ago so the storyline and musical numbers were already fresh in my head as I entered tonight's packed theatre.

Beside the wonderful singing, acting and fabulous choreography, it’s the clever staging and in particular the rain sequences which so impress. More than 6,000 litres of water – heated to a comfortable 37 degrees! – is sprayed on the cast thanks to concealed rubber hoses and a great sprinkler system. But just as impressive is the huge drainage trough which allows the water to be recovered in around 15 minutes before being recycled, cleaned and used over again at the end of the Second Act!

For those unfamiliar with the story, Singin’ in the Rain follows two 1920s Hollywood actors who attempt to transition from the silent screen to the talkies – and there’s plenty of comedic moments along the way.

While Gene Kelly’s role of leading man Don Lockwood has gone down in cinema history, when Sam Lips dons his tap shoes in the same role of the silent movie heartthrob, he lights up the stage and finally charms wannabe stage actress Kathy Selden having searched for her for weeks following a chance meeting while sitting on a bench trying to avoid his adoring fans.

Charlotte Gooch is the graceful Kathy who has a  terrific voice while she can certainly dance. But when the rain starts to pour in the key Singin' in the Rain number, it's the dashing Lockwood who skips and dances his way through the puddles while kicking water out over the audience who by now are not only rather wet, but are in fits of laughter.

Lockwood's right-hand funny man is Cosmo Brown (Ross McLaren) whose slapstick version of Make 'Em Laugh is brilliantly executed. Throughout the show his quips and wonderful comedy timing makes him a standout performer while I also loved the trio singing Good Morning as they danced around the street. 

As for Dunstable's Faye Tozer, she plays the beautiful Lina Lamont whose squeaky voice was fine for the silent era although she could never make it in the talkies. The pop star from Steps certainly has great fun as the preening silent movie icon and she certainly plays the role for laughs… but she acts pretty angrily when she finds out from her friend Zelda Zander (Imogen Brooke) that her voice has been over-dubbed by Kathy Selden in the fictional Monumental Pictures studio's first talking effort.

Acting veteran Sandra Dickinson is Hollywood journalists Dora Bailey who interviews the stars as they attend a film premiere – she's also a dialect coach desperately, but unsuccessfully, trying to teach Miss Lamont how to speak coherently. Meanwhile Michael Matus plays director Roscoe Dexter and Robin Kent is the singing Los Angeles cop.

There are two ballet sequences – which seems to pay homage to BBC Television’s Strictly Come Dancing despite the Monumental studio's owner requesting a tap dance routine in the film – while its  Andrew Wright’s brilliant choreography which is both visually stunning and extremely colourful – as is the whole show!

Clearly designed to deliver the Singin' in the Rain number, which closes both the First and Second Acts, it really involves the whole talented cast. However you certainly wonder how the backstage boys and girls manage to dry the stage during a 20 minute intermission besides getting all the costumes dry again so quickly on a day when there's a matinee performance.

As for me, I couldn’t help thinking back to Morecambe and Wise when they recreated that iconic rain dance scene. Meanwhile the ‘rain’ managed to give last night’s audience one final soaking before they headed for home, undoubtedly humming the tunes which would by now be ingrained in their memory – what a glorious feeling indeed!

Singin' in the Rain plays Milton Keynes Theatre until this Saturday.