On a chilly Wednesday evening in London town I was transported back to ole timey Hollywood and tinsel town glam, via The Palace Theatre, thanks to an invitation to see the musical Singin' in the Rain. Now I'll be honest, I'm not the world's biggest theatre fan - all those jazz hands and over-smiley faces set off my nervous tick and then I start to recall my evil drama teacher at secondary school who insisted that country dancing (in hideously fitting shorts) in the assembly hall would secure us a job on the silver screen one day. How many film ad campaigns with the line 'Sparks fly as the world of country dancing and ballet collide in Country Dance 3D' have you seen recently? Exactly.
Anyway, back to Singin' in the Rain, which is of course based on the famous 1952 MGM movie which is possibly the most loved of all the big screen musicals - and this production by Jonathan Church is supported by some pretty darn cool retro-but-modern choreography by Andrew Wright (think Gene Kelly meets a bit of Strictly Come Dancing), combined with all the classics like Good Morning, Make 'em Laugh, Moses Supposes and of course, Singin' in the Rain - and yes, I admit I did shimmy in my seat at one point. But just a bit of advice for you, if you don't like getting wet, then don't sit in the front rows - there's lots of dancing and kicking water into the audience, so I would recommend a strong waterproof mascara. And in case like me you start wondering later on where all the water on stage actually comes from and goes, here's the science bit - 14,000 litres of recycled water is used in total for each show as it rains twice during each performance, but the water drains back into a hidden reservoir in the orchestra pit. Clever huh?
Wet or dry, the cast oozes charm and humour in a story which centres around the arrival of the talkies in Hollywood - talkies being the introduction of sound in motion pictures, thanks to Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer in 1927.
Leading man in the show, former Royal Ballet star Adam Cooper, is of course devilishly handsome as Don Lockwood, and the script is full of 'haha boom boom' type gags, particularly from Daniel Crossley who plays Lockwood's best-friend/comedy sidekick, Cosmo - make 'em laugh he did. But I found the chemistry between Lockwood and chorus girl Kathy (Scarlett Strallen) whom he falls for after a chance encounter, a tad too gushy (more cheese than a fromagerie), and yes I know that's how they did things in the roaring 20s. Thankfully the brash, bitchy and terribly loud Lina Lamont (Katherine Kingsley), who plays Lockwood's studio-engineered love-interest, slices through the cheese with her comedy, screechy Noo Yoik accent, as she tries to make the transition from silent pictures to the talkies. You'll recall that Hollywood recently jumped right back into 1927 with Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist, the first non-talkie movie to win a Best Picture Oscar in 83 years.
The golden age of Hollywood is also brought back to life in Singin' in the Rain thanks to Simon Higlett's clever stage design; an orchestra performing a classy vintage score, and a supporting cast who pop up at different points, tapping from one side of the stage to the other, throwing hats in the air.... and twirling various things.
For someone who prefers to avoid the West End's theatrical offerings, I was left grinning from ear to ear after this show, and although I hate to admit it, I also had a slight feeling of joy in my heart. But I draw the line at wanting to join tap dance classes, unlike the group of women I heard behind me who were slightly overexcited at the thought. It's also quite distrubing how everyone inanely smiles at one another as you all shuffle out of the theatre - I think they call this the 'happy again' effect.
If you like splashing around with your umbrella-ella-ella or fancy having Moses Supposes stuck in your head for days, or if you're just in a bad mood - then go and see Singin' in the Rain.
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