The stage adaptation of the adored MGM film had already been showered with praise when it played in Chichester, but how would it fare in the West End?
If you haven’t seen the movie of Singin’ In The Rain – and somehow, despite being in my fourth decade, I hadn’t – you will know the songs… and once you’ve heard them they will hang around in your head like delightfully tuneful persistent drizzle.
In bringing the show to the stage, director Jonathan Church and choreographer Andrew Wright have created dance numbers of cumulonimbus proportions; Adam Cooper’s performance of the title song is less Singin’ In The Rain and more tapping through the tempest, as he sploshes stylishly through the torrential downpour that floods the stage and would merit the introduction of Sea World style splash zones for the first six rows of the stalls.
Still, any watery squeals emanating from the area in which you get a free shower courtesy of Cooper’s exuberant footwork for the price of your ticket were of delight at the drenched dancing rather than hydrophobia.
Each of the four leads, in fact, receive showcases in set pieces that play to their strengths. The dance prowess of former Royal Ballet star Cooper gets the title track, while Scarlett Strallen’s cut glass vocals shine like the celestial body she sings about in You Are My Lucky Star. Daniel Crossley and Katherine Kingsley show off their comedy chops in Make ‘Em Laugh and What’s Wrong With Me?
Kingsley, as Lina Lamont, the silent movie star with a voice as squeaky and grating as a helium-addicted chipmunk preparing cheese, pretty much steals the show. Her perfect comic performance never misses the spot and is probably more interesting than the tale of two lovers whose relationship never really feels under threat.
That story of a silent movie star struggling to cope with the transition to Talkies is timely, what with The Artist winning almost every film award it is currently possible to win, but feels a little secondary to the show’s set pieces. Wright has captured the spirit of the era in his dance numbers, which are undoubtedly a treat for West End audiences, while Church clearly enjoyed playing with the filmic elements of the show that bring the movies being filmed in the story onto the Palace theatre’s stage.
There is certainly a buzz about Chichester Festival Theatre at the moment; Singin’ In The Rain is the first of four productions from the West Sussex venue to transfer to London in 2012. It will be followed by Bingo, Sweeney Todd and South Downs/The Browning Version. I doubt, after last night’s party, whether anyone from the venue will be singing Good Morning this morning, but judging from the instant standing ovation on press night, the famous song’s optimistic sentiment is one they will share.