Singin' In the Rain

Screenplay and adaptation by Betty Comden and Adolf Green; songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
New Victoria Theatre, Woking, and touring

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One of my all time favourite films presented on stage and starring one of my very favourite performers – it should have been a marriage made in heaven – a dream come true. Disappointingly, although it was a pleasant evening’s entertainment, and very enjoyable to boot, it didn’t quite hit the mark. There is much to admire, much to enjoy, but the expected zing, pizzazz, and sheer joie de vivre are missing.

Keeping closely to the 1952 film on which it is based, the story is a gentle satire on the advent of talking films and how they affected the silent era, and if ever there was a demonstration of the importance of a well-modulated voice it is shown here with the first rushes of The Dancing Cavalier (the Simpson studio's answer to The Jazz Singer) and its raucous voiced New 'Joysey' star. Shown again with a new golden dubbed voice she is transformed from almost ugly to truly beautiful.

Here the lovely voice belongs to Jessica Punch as Kathy Selden, the young, aspiring actress who falls in love with movie idol Don Lockwood, to the outraged and spiteful fury of his co-star, the strident Lina Lamont (Amy Griffiths) who claims him (erroneously) as her fiancé.

Alison Pollard's direction overplays facetiousness. The story would be more compelling if the characters were performed with conviction, but then the main focus of the show is the song and dance numbers – the romantic You Stepped out of a Dream sung against a background of a starlit sky, Make 'em Laugh, with a very energetic and athletic Cosmo showing how to do it, and the title song (which always brings a giggle remembering the Morecambe and Wise version). This is the most testing one for Flavin, who has not only taken on the daunting task of following in the tap dancing footsteps of legendary Gene Kelly, but is doing it eight times a week on tour, and having to perform the whole caboodle all in one go – song and dance in pouring rain, and with the danger of a very wet and slippery stage. If the fifty year old Flavin seems to find it a little heavy going at times it is not surprising, but he has enough stage presence and charisma to carry it off well, and is a very convincing matinee idol.

Choreography by Graeme Henderson is not particularly remarkable, but as Don's musician pal Cosmo, he really shows his amazing dance skill with some very fast tap sequences which have him seemingly all over the stage at once. Likeable, cheery and comical – his performance is one of the best in the show.

Particular highlights are Cosmo and Don in Moses Supposes – a very funny dance number teasing the diction teacher (Mark Iles) and Good Morning when the first two are joined by Kathy in a perfectly timed and executed dance number finishing by - in unison - overturning the large settee before collapsing on it.

The sound system (Jon Higson and Ross Portway) did no favours to Gareth Williams' seven piece orchestra, producing a tinny vibration, but overall songs and dance were pleasing and enjoyable if not always exciting. Perhaps my expectations were too high!

Touring to Sunderland, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Bristol, Bromley, Edinburgh and Glasgow

Philip Seager reviewed this production in Sheffield

Reviewer: Sheila Connor

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