REVIEW: Singing In The Rain

08
November
2018

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singing in the rain

 



Singing in the Rain – Winchester Musicals and Opera Society, Theatre Royal
(By David Cradduck. Images: Peter Sillick)

“Never work with children or animals”, they say. No mention of pouring water on stage, then.

If you go to see the stage version of  ‘Singing in the Rain’ what you really want to know from the outset is how they will tackle THAT scene, where Don Lockwood (played by Gene Kelly in the landmark 1952 film) skips up and down the pavement, “dancing…and singing in the rain”, oblivious to the conditions and as happy as Larry that he’s got his girl, Kathy Seldon.

singing in the rain

Apparently that scene in the film took two to three days to shoot and Kelly was soaked through for hours whilst nursing a fever into the bargain. So you have to sympathise with anyone attempting to recreate it at all, let alone on stage in front of an audience just waiting for something to go wrong.

The end result on celluloid, of course, is now legendary and has set the bar for anyone following in those soggy footprints. It is true to say that both Gene Kelly’s shoes, and those of Tommy Steele’s 30 years later at the London Palladium, apart from being very wet, are big ones to fill.

So full marks to Chris Horn of WMOS for not just filling those but tap dancing, light o’ foot, whilst singing and acting his socks off throughout an exciting and charming version of ‘Singing in the Rain’ this week at the Theatre Royal Winchester, home of many a WMOS production in recent years.

singing in the rain

Chris’s effortless American accent never falters and neither do those of his co-stars: Sarah Mulcare as our heroine Kathy, whose singing voice ranges from passionately melodic to powerfully vocal, does it all with an authentic sounding US twang.

Likewise Cosmo Brown (Wesley Buckeridge) bubbles over with Hollywood enthusiasm and energetic stage presence. Then there is Lina Lamont, silent movies starlet with the less than dulcet voice that doesn’t bode well for the ‘talkies’, portrayed beautifully by Katie Hickson. She is especially impressive when belting out the song “What’s Wrong With Me?” in a wonderfully screechy off-key voice.

singing in the rain

The plot is not complicated – successful 20s film studio scoffs at Warner Bros’ new talking movie, claiming it will be no more than a passing fad. They complacently have their silent stars in Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont and need no more than to churn out more of the same genre.

Of course, the passing fad turns out to be the tipping point of a technological revolution in film-making and everyone soon realises that, whilst Don can adapt to speaking and singing on film, Lina cannot.

Enter the love of Don’s life, ambitious Kathy with the lovely voice, who provides the ‘voice’ for Lina as her vocal double. A nice touch is the plot to publicly embarrass Lina for the glamorous fluff she is by raising the curtain to reveal to Lina’s fans the real ‘voice’ behind her.

singing in the rain

What is complex, however, is everything else to do with the show. In many ways, this is a hugely ambitious production for any theatre company but for a relatively small provincial, non-professional group (I hate the connotation of the word amateur), it is staggering.

The staging, lighting, costumes and set design are many and complex, not to mention the staging of the title scene (how DID they do that rain sequence?).

The budget for the costumes alone must have been generous to say the least. I had to keep pinching myself that I was not watching a big West End production or a national touring company with a fleet of pantechnicons parked up outside.

singing in the rain

The level of professionalism shown by director/choreographer Suzanne Hall and her team is awesome. The whole ensemble of cast, dancers, singers, backstage crew and supporters come together to produce a really vibrant, mesmerising stage musical of Hollywood proportions. There is additional black and white film work (very impressive) to demonstrate the ‘film within the story’, there is comedy and the pace, on the whole, is excellent.

And the music? Well, justice is certainly done to those old favourites like ‘Good Morning’, ‘You were meant for me’ and – of course – ‘Singing in the Rain’ by one extremely impressive pianist and musical director, Katherine Rockhill who trained at The Royal Academy of Music, no less, and has a string of professional credits to her name as an accompanist of some repute.

A show of this scale would normally boast an orchestra in the pit, not a solo pianist, so it is all the more incredible that the music throughout is provided by one instrument and one player.

Suzanne Hall says “As a company we have not tried to recreate the film…but we have celebrated the essence of it”. Well, they may not have recreated the film but within the confines of a relatively small stage I really don’t think they could have bettered their attempt to recreate the big stage musical version.

Despite one or two very minor technical hitches (ironically to do with sound) it would be picky of any critic to find fault with this production. Suzanne and WMOS should be very proud of their latest performances. ‘Singing in the Rain’ runs until Saturday 10th and there is a matinée performance on Saturday. If there are still some tickets available, I recommend you grab them quickly.

So what’s next up for them? ‘Made in Dagenham – the musical’, 22-25 May next year, that’s what – back at the Theatre Royal Winchester. I look forward to seeing more of this talented company. More details at www.wmos.org.uk