Singin' in the Rain
Book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Michael Harrison and Jonathan Church, Chichester Festival Theatre and Stage Entertainment
Is there a more famous scene in cinema history than Gene Kelly strutting across from lamppost to lamppost in the downfall while humming along to “Singin’ in the Rain”? For many, 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain is one of the best films ever made. Thirty-one years later, director Sir Tommy Steele and choreographer Peter Gennaro decide to make, at the time, the not-so-familiar transition of screen to stage. Faithful to the original (and why would it need to be changed?), it was nominated for an Olivier award before being transferred to Broadway and becoming Tony nominated to boot.
The 2012 production was revived at the Sadler's Wells Theatre last year as audiences warmed back into venues after the pandemic. The cast has chopped and changed as it drops in on theatres up and down the country.
On this occasion, as the company stopped by in the West Country, former Strictly Come Dancing star Kevin Clifton steps back into Cosmo Brown’s tip-tapping shoes, while Sam Lips and Charlotte Gooch take on the roles of Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden respectively. They are joined by a large ensemble, all of whom have their moments to shine under the Bristol Hippodrome spotlight.
The big takeaways from the show’s stay in Bristol are two things: staging and choreography. Let us break down the former first.
The staging is utterly flawless. A team of four are responsible here: Simon Higlett (designer), Tim Mitchell (lighting), Gareth Owen (sound) and Ian William Galloway (video). Yes, we all know about the (recycled) 14,000 litres of water. Likewise, who can forget Donald O’Connor’s hot feet in “Make ‘Em Laugh” in the original? But the lighting in tandem to the performances is a spectacle. It is eye-catching in every way. In a split second, it can go from a gloomy, downtown Los Angeles street to the most elaborate film set. The lighting design goes to another level during the ballet numbers (part one and two). There is no room for the orchestra, which is a pity but entirely forgivable given the nature of the ever-changing locations.
Now, onto the choreography. When the original production took place on the West End a decade ago, it was award-winning. Andrew Wright’s gorgeous take on the classic had critics and audiences alike picking jaws off the floor and rubbing their eyes in disbelief. His reimagination of the original pays the right amount of homage, whilst providing some added dynamism to the already high-energy show. Highlights include crowd favourite “Good Morning”, “Moses Supposes” and “Singin’ in the Rain Reprise”. Clifton, Lips and Gooch give it their all throughout and as a trio, hit a home run.
The original Singin’ in the Rain might be 70 years old, but its all-action, warm-spirited, breathtaking dance sequences and catchy numbers will never fail to capture the hearts of any audience. Gene Kelly gave us some of cinema’s most acclaimed and loved works—and as a lover of and performer on Broadway’s best-known theatres himself, would surely be giddy at the thought that, seven decades on, his work continues to be cherished.
Reviewer: Jacob Newbury