Thursday, 14 May 2009

Singin' in the Rain - Sunderland Empire

Singin’ In The Rain
Book: Betty Comden & Adolph Green

Music/Lyrics: Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Freed

Director: Alison Pollard

Choreographer: Graeme Henderson

Reviewer: Ian Cain

Frequently described as ‘one of the best musicals ever made’, the 1952 comedy-musical ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, enjoys a timeless, evergreen appeal.

Now, the iconic movie has been adapted for the stage by Peter Frosdick and Martin Dodd for UK Productions, the team behind successful stage revivals of ‘Seven Brides For Seven Brothers’ and ‘Fiddler On The Roof.’

It is an extremely stylish production that is visually stunning. The sets, designed by Charles Camm are wonderfully simple whilst also being extremely functional and interchangeable. Elizabeth Dennis has provided costumes that look authentically glamorous – top hats, tails, feather boas and sequinned gowns.

The plot, which is fairly straightforward, surrounds Hollywood’s somewhat awkward and tentative transition from the era of the silent movie to the ‘talkies.’ Although there is plenty of slapstick comedy, dramatic moments and big musical numbers the piece is a little slow to start with. However, it soon finds its feet and there is no looking back.

‘The Scotsman’ newspaper claimed that: ‘When God created musicals, it was because he knew that Tim Flavin would come along.’ I have to say that I endorse this comment, too. Combining considerable aplomb as an actor, singer and dancer, he suits the role of Don Lockwood perfectly.

Jessica Punch steps into the shoes that were once filled by Debbie Reynolds, as Kathy Selden, and brings to the role a charismatic warmth that is easily likeable. She has a wonderful singing voice, too.

Graeme Henderson not only takes on the role of Cosmo Brown, but that of choreographer, as well, and he excels in both. The routine that he performs for ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ is fantastic and contains some astounding elements of physical comedy, which are perfectly executed.

Amy Griffiths hurls herself wholehearte
dly into the role of silent movie diva, Lina Lamont. Her screeching voice and grating Bronx accent are honed perfectly and she plays her solo, ‘What’s Wrong With Me?’ strictly for laughs.

A couple of other performers, in minor roles, made big impressions. Firstly, Vivienne McMaster is brilliant as the gushing entertainment reporter Dora Bailey. Secondly, Billy Mitchell excels when he leads a big chorus number, demonstrating that he has a strong, smooth voice and the certainty of a successful career ahead of him.

The big chorus numbers are audience-pleasers and fill the stage with riotous colour, movement and energy. The title
number was hugely anticipated in the auditorium and when it came it drew breaths. Tim Flavin performed it with flair, charisma and pure enjoyment, and the real rain was the icing on the cake.

This is a big, bold, sassy show that retains all the charm of the original film and sends the audience on their way home smiling and looking for puddles to splash about in!

‘Singin’ In The Rain’ runs at Sunderland Empire until Saturday 16th May 2009.
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