'Singin’ In The Rain' moved to the West End in February, where has been selling out nightly productions ever since. Adapted for the stage from the much-loved 1952 MGM film, it’s set in the roaring Twenties of Hollywood at a time when the advent of the ‘talkies’ marked the death of silent film.
It follows the story of handsome silent movie star Don Lockwood and his on-screen love interest Lina Lamont. The pair are Hollywood’s biggest stars, but unfortunately the arrival of talking pictures puts their careers in jeopardy as Lina has a voice like nails on a chalkboard (that’s putting it lightly). A chance meeting causes Don to fall for aspiring actress Kathy Selden, who has melodic set of pipes and agrees to dub over all of Lina’s lines. There’s just one problem – the women can’t stand each other.
It’s a testament to its timeless popularity of the dancing and musical extravaganza that this year marks its 60th anniversary. Crowds have been pouring in – apologies for the terrible rain-related pun – to the Palace Theatre, one of the most beloved theatres in the West End.
The show itself is an engrossing and entertaining production, featuring over two and a half hours of all-singing, all-dancing action. In addition there are clever film inserts which bring to life the era in which it’s set with projected black-and-white film footage.
Although the two romantic leads Adam Cooper and Scarlett Strallen (Don Lockward and Kathy Selden respectively) are more than capable entertainers, it’s the two sidekicks who without a doubt steal the show. Daniel Crossley as Don’s best friend Cosmo performs an exhaustingly energetic solo effort for 'Make ‘Em Laugh', which would surely leave lesser theatre actors collapsing in the wings.
Katherine Kingsley is the most remarkable performer of the bunch, and her squealing Lina Lamont is noteworthy simply for the fact that it requires her to affect the most painful squeal imaginable for the entire duration of the show. This ‘New Yoik’ lamb is may be a spoilt movie star, but Katherine manages to evoke empathy for this simple ‘goirl’ who is trying to avoid being led to the inevitable slaughter.
'Singin’ In The Rain' is a technically demanding show involving complex choreographed group numbers, not to mention the small fact that for each performance, 'Singin’ In The Rain' uses 14 tonnes (14,000 litres) of water. For the title number the hero Don dances, spins and skids around the stage, splashing the squealing first three rows with water. Thoughtfully those close to the front of the stage are kitted out with plastic ponchos – for those who would rather not come out from the theatre looking like they’ve just been on the log flume at Chessington.
The downpour is re-enacted for the raucous finale, which sees the entire company take to the stage for an energetic send-off, bringing the audience to their feet in applause as the cast join in a rousing revival of the title song 'Singin’ In The Rain'.
The stage show faithfully replicates the Gene Kelly film and although it can be said that director Jonathan Church doesn’t do anything new or different with the material, it’s in some ways better than watching the original movie – live, exciting and thrilling to see in person. 'Singin’ In The Rain' manages that rare feat of appealing to and entertaining audiences of all ages - kids are enraptured by the thrill of real rain submerging the theatre, while the adults involuntarily find themselves singing along to the familiar tunes from the film.
It’s currently one of the West End’s star attractions and it has every right to be, although one warning, it may unintentionally cause you to break out into song and dance next time you’re caught in a downpour.
Find more info at singinintherain.co.uk. A 60th anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-ray and DVD of 'Singin’ In The Rain' will be released on 12th Nov.