Singin' In the Rain

Based on the MGM film, screenplay and adaptation by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Chichester Festival Theatre

Singin' In the Rain production photo

I believe this is the first musical that Jonathan Church has directed, certainly since he has been Artistic Director at Chichester and, knowing a good thing when he sees one, he has kept the show very close to the 1952 film - in fact, almost word for word and scene for scene. Set in 1927 when the first talking pictures became a feasible reality and The Jazz Singer was taking the world by storm, many former stars of the silent movies were a sad disappointment to their fans, their careers sinking without trace, and so it is here with Monumental Studios faced with the prospect of their top star unable to transform her strident screeches to the dulcet tones required, causing consternation to the studio bosses R.F. Simpson (Michael Brandon) and Roscoe Dexter (Peter Forbes) who play the scene nicely balanced between comedy and the thought of impending ruin.

This show has everything - overbearing spiteful leading leading lady getting her comeuppance, innocently sweet ingenue getting recognition (and her man), comedy, romance, terrific song and dance numbers and a matchless feel-good factor. Even the weather got in on the act providing a rainstorm to get us in the mood, almost matching that on stage where a soaking Adam Cooper as heartthrob Don Lockwood comes into his own, happily and brilliantly dancing up a storm which he generously shares with the front rows, and so joyously outstanding that for once I didn’t think of Morecambe and Wise in their version. Cooper’s singing voice is no more than average, but his dancing is a dream, particularly in the romantic numbers which owe more to his ballet training, and the captivating and multi-talented Scarlett Strallen is his perfect partner as the enchanting Kathy Selden, her golden voice the saviour of the studio. Completing the iconic trio of the movie is an outstanding Daniel Crossley as the very likeable wise-cracking pal Cosmo Brown with his own moment of glory in the very energetic and athletic ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’, and ‘Good Morning’ ends in a show-stopping moment with the audience on the edge of their seats and the trio on the edge of the stage.

Celebrity culture is nothing new, and it’s a slow start in front of Graumann’s Chinese Theatre as the arriving couples are introduced to a cheering crowd, but once into the story and the musical numbers the show really zings, and a surprise twist to the tale is a ‘wing-walking‘ chorus line of ‘Beautiful Girls‘ giving pilot David Lucas the opportunity to woo us with his glorious tenor. Lucas is also the diction coach giving ‘Moses Supposes‘ some deliciously expressive humour.

Humour is the mainstay too of Katherine Kingsley who brilliantly plays Lina Lamont, squeezing every drop of comedy from the script mainly from emphasis and intonation. “People!” she shrieks “I ain’t People” regarding the term as an insult.

Andrew Wright, who choreographed 42nd Street last year, has provided equally impressive dance numbers, and William Galloway’s video footage of the silent movies gained some truly historical significance being shot (carefully) among the priceless antiques of the sixteenth century Parham House in Sussex.

The riotous standing ovation said it all, not easily achieved at Chichester, and out into the rain we went - still singing!

Until 10th September.

Reviewer: Sheila Connor

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