Review: Singin’ In The Rain (touring) Nottingham Theatre Royal

Singin’ in the Rain

Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham (Touring)

Directed by Jonathan Church

Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed

Set and Costume

Designer – Simon Higlett

Choreographer – Andrew Wright  

Tuesday 5th July – Saturday 9th July 2022

‘Extra, extra, read all about it………….’

Welcome to the glamorous world of 1920’s silent filmmaking, where Don Lockwood (Sam Lips) is the Hollywood idol who has it all. A successful career, legions of adoring fans and a manufactured ‘romance’ with Lina Lamont (Jenny Gayner) are his for the taking. However, a new kind of movie is being touted where studios will require performers who can convincingly talk, in addition to acting and dancing on screen.

Meanwhile, Don’s cossetted life is further disrupted by his encounter with budding actress Kathy Selden (Charlotte Gooch), as he finds himself truly falling in love this time. Cue mishaps, misunderstandings and madcap mayhem as Don negotiates the transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’ and everything that comes between.

This production of Singin’ in the Rain is based on the classic, much-loved 1952 romantic comedy. I am a huge Gene Kelly fan, and the film is one of my all-time favourites, so it is not without trepidation that I approach the musical. Can it live up to the original? Or will it be the proverbial damp squib?

Rest assured, all the old favourites are there including Good Morning, Make ‘em Laugh, Moses Supposes and the inimitable Singin’ in the Rain. This latter number alone is worth the ticket price. 14,000 litres of water are used at every performance to recreate this iconic scene. If you are concerned about the environmental impact, it is good to know that afterwards, the water is recovered, recycled, cleaned, and used again. Special mention goes to the stagehands who come on at the interval to make the stage ready for the second act.

If you are seated in the front few rows of the stalls, you may leave a little wetter than you arrived as the cast members playfully splash the audience. Do not worry though, the water is heated to 37 degrees, so you will not feel cold. It is all part of the immense warmth and charm of this production that has you grinning from ear to ear throughout.

The standout performance comes from Gayner as the ‘screen siren’ Lina Lamont. She is an absolute hoot, from start to finish. The work that has gone into getting that unique voice exactly right must be immense but has totally paid off. Every inflection, modulation, and regulation hit the spot. A flick of the wrist, a pursing of the lips, a sashay off the stage; what could easily become caricature is elevated. We somehow root for her even as she plots against the lovely Selden. Moreover, her costumes are spectacular. 1920’s vintage glamour plus the powdered wigs and excesses of the French Revolution. What’s not to love?

The set design by Simon Higlett initially left me nonplussed. The cavernous stage of the Concert Hall is replete with an anthracite grey backdrop comprised of dark panelling, utilitarian brickwork, and a rococo arch. It is seemingly at odds with the convivial feel of the piece. Yet, all becomes clear later on. Reminiscent of the shift from the black and white films of the silent era to ‘Glorious Technicolor,’ we are treated to a neon-fest transformation, by way of both set and costume.

The two lead performers Lips and Gooch are a winning pair, with the excellent Ross McClaren giving staunch support as Cosmo Brown. It would be all too easy to fall into the trap of comparing Lips with Gene Kelly, but this would be a disservice. Lips does not mimic, but makes the role his own, part Don Draper from Mad Men, part Fred Astaire, with a dash of Henry Fonda thrown in.

The ensemble deserve praise too, both for the execution of the choreography and their vocal performance, with harmonies as tight as Lamont’s vocal cords. Andrew Wright has devised intricate and nuanced dance that hits the mark and leaves you wanting more.

If you are looking for feel-good entertainment with gallons of vintage pizazz, then Singin’ in the Rain is the show for you.Cosmo sings, ‘You can charm the critics,’ and I would certainly agree.

Running Time – 2 hours 40 mins (inc. interval)  

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