Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Singin' in the Rain - Machester Palace Theatre

Singin’ in the Rain
Book: Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Lyrics: Arthur Freed
Music: Nacio Herb Brown
Director: Alison Pollard
Choreographer: Graeme Henderson
Reviewer: Phillipa Jenkins

I love Gene Kelly. I love Debbie Reynolds. I won’t lie. I love the film. Imagine then my excitement at the prospect of a stage show. My heart skipped a beat; several in fact. As the cast began to assemble onstage in the most gorgeous costumes; women in dresses and feathers to-die-for, draped across achingly handsome men; I was rapt. Unfortunately the costumes were all I could force myself to focus on until midway through the first half. The show got off to a slow start. I became restless for some showstoppers and consequently devoured a bag of Minstrels almost instantly.

Then Cosmo Brown (Graeme Henderson) lifted my spirits. What a fantastic performance, with all the energy and buzz one would expect of this role, and superb comic timing. ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ was a brilliantly executed number that had him bouncing across the stage effortlessly and relentlessly.

Which was then followed by series of back-to-back crowd-pleasers; my favourite; ‘Moses Supposes’; the charming ‘Good Morning’; and the veritably holy ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ (did I mention that I love this musical…?). Absolutely delightful. Vibrant, colourful, energetic and…. with real rain. What more could a girl ask for?!

Having composed myself during the interval I resolved to stuff my bias under my seat and attempt some professionalism. It was then that I realised Don Lockwood (Tim Flavin) is no Gene Kelly. Vocally; he was superb. When it came to the tap-dancing however; he was somewhat lacking in precision and charisma. A big disappointment as Flavin is a recognised name in musical theatre.

Jessica Punch was a predictably warm and amiable Kathy Selden with a lovely vocal quality; although perhaps not as sassy as I would have liked. Amy Griffiths was simply riotous as Lina Lamont with her rendition of ‘What’s Wrong With Me’. She had by now settled into her screeching and squawking so vehemently and with such ease that I was left choking on my chocolate with laughter.

Other highlights were the silent movie scenes, whereby the audience was given the opportunity to watch the film on a huge cinematic screen as if they were attending the premiere, and enjoy the applause and appearances from the film stars afterwards. This provided a lovely sensation of being involved in the production, rather than a spectator watching a ‘fake’ audience enjoy the film.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the production. It captured the wonderfully slapstick comedy of the era, and was playful in its presentation of the narrative. The showstoppers were delivered to the audience’s expectations and the chorus did a fabulous job of supporting their stars. Although a little slow to begin, it’s nonetheless refreshing to see a musical that stays true to it’s origins and doesn’t attempt to transform itself too radically. Owing to this, it is a show that everyone can enjoy. Brilliantly entertaining.

Singin’ in the Rain runs at The Palace Theatre until Sat 14th March 2009
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