Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Singin' in the Rain - Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Singin’ in the Rain
Based on the MGM film
Songs:Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Director: Alison Pollard
Choreography: Graeme Henderson
Reviewer: Jim Nicholson

Another touring version of what many see as the most triumphantly cinematic musical of all time can have many pitfalls, and unfortunately, I think this Alison Pollard directed version of Singin’ in the Rain has fallen into a fair few of those.

Familiarity with the story and a nostalgic love for the original film means you need a stand out cast to prevent an audience feeling short changed by certain scenes, songs or characters. I am not sure just how good the cast were here because I feel the direction allowed a feeling of ‘wooden’ comedy rather than allowing it to look in any way spontaneous.

That said it does have its highs such as Don and Cosmo’s vaudevillian ‘Fit as a Fiddle’, Cosmo’s wackiness in ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ and a ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ finale that at last let us hear the soaring vocals of the chorus.

I have long been a fan of Tim Flavin and saw him in all three West End shows for which he received Best Actor Olivier nominations (winning in 1984 for On Your Toes). He is still a genial showman who here, as Don Lockwood, holds centre stage whenever he gets those legs moving and those feet tapping but vocally there was not the oomph I remember him delivering over those past 25 years.

In actual fact Graeme Henderson, as Cosmo Brown, appears stronger on all their duets. Henderson also choreographed the show and that is some challenge. Amy Griffiths, in the Lina Lamont role, gets the stupidity level just about right but the voice is just not convincingly ‘annoyingly real’ for my liking, although I suppose ‘What’s Wrong With Me?’ is meant to be pretty painful.

Jessica Punch’s Kathy Selden is very sweet voiced and she more than holds her own when it comes to “sofa abuse” in a very appealing ‘Good Morning’ routine. Elizabeth Dennis comes up throughout with some very colourful and resplendent costumes including a triple coloured range of hats, boots and waterproof jackets, aided by matching umbrellas, to fight the monsoon that hits in the very soggy finale .

Rainwater is also a plenty at the end of act one as Tim Flavin did his best to emulate the great “Singin’ in the Rain” dance routine, no one is ever going to be able to replicate the genius that was Gene Kelly, but at least I didn’t sit through the interval wishing it had been Morecambe and Wise, rather than Flavin, up there on stage.

So all in all far from my favourite visit to the theatre in recent weeks. That said I always hark back to the many shows I have been to and loved, only to see the professional reviewers rip them to bits in the next days press. Well I can report a very positive audience response at the end, in actual fact far, far more positive than mine. Suppose it could have been me just having a bad hair day or perhaps I was just depressed by all the wet weather.

Runs until Sat 26th
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