Singin' In The Rain UK Tour Review - Theatre Royal Plymouth
Springing onto the movie screens in glorious technicolour in 1952 and onto the West End in all dancing, singing spectacular in 1983, ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ is a staple in the world of classic musicals, harking back to the golden age of Hollywood.
The story centres around Don Lockwood (played here by Sam Lips), a great star of silent movies in the 1920’s and the challenges faced in the move towards talking pictures. Lockwood is famed for performing alongside fellow star Lina Lamont (Jenny Gaynor), and in a silent movie that’s not a problem but when Monumental Pictures manager R.F (Dale Rapley) wants to make a ‘talkie’, there’s an issue and that is Lina’s voice and her issues with new star Kathy Seldon (Charlotte Gooch) who Don has fallen for. It’s up to Don, Kathy and Don’s best friend and studio musician Cosmo (Ross McLaren) to come up with a plan to save the movie.
Featuring famous musical numbers such as ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’, ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ this production is lavish and colourful, oozing class and grace with tremendous performances throughout. Sam Lips proves himself to be a showman to the highest degree, with every dance move on point and a voice that floats over the audience in a role that is incredibly full on and barely off stage. Charlotte Gooch’s Kathy is sweet and lovable, also an effortlessly beautiful dancer, working well with Lips’ Don and McLaren’s Cosmo to create a likeable trio who you will on for success, both in making the film a great success and propelling their own careers. It is Ross McLaren’s cheeky, comical, and wickedly clever Cosmo Brown who steals the show, earning rapturous applause for his act one number ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ and his many impeccably timed one liners.
Jenny Gaynor impresses as movie star Lina Lamont with the character’s grating voice becoming the butt of many jokes and a driving force for the plot as she struggles to fit into a world of talking pictures whilst being seemingly unable to see what the problem is for herself. You could see Lina as the villain of the piece as she does everything in her power to remain the star and push Kathy to the side lines, and she is a villain that the audience just love to hate.
Michael Matus adds another element of humour as director Roscoe Dexter, determined to make his newest movie a success but tired of having to deal with Lina, her voice and her requests, with Dale Rapley’s R.F just trying to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. Imogen Brooke, Sandra Dickinson, Alastair Crosswell and Harriet Samuel-Gray are also given their moments to shine as Zelda, Dora, dialect coach and Broadway Melody respectively with Brooke’s Zelda acting as Lina’s studio spy, Dickinson’s Dora fizzing with energy as a premiere night host, Samuel-Gray showing off some impressive dance skill in the Broadway Ballet scene and Crosswell’s Dialect coach slipping into step with Lips and McLaren’s during the greatly entertaining ‘Moses Supposes’ dance number.
This is a full-on production for the ensemble who slip from playing movie fans to dancers to studio workers throughout the show. In this very dance heavy performance, they have a lot of work to do but they take it all in their stride.
Whilst you’d be forgiven for thinking that a running time of 2 hours 40 minutes isn’t massively long, not for an older more golden age style musical, it is in its pacing that ‘Singin In The Rain’ falters. Whilst I completely understand the reasoning for the big ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ number, with its famous on stage rain fall, being at the end of act one due to it sending the audience to the interval smiling and the crew then having the interval to tidy up, the time in which that song comes in the story is actually quite far into the plot, and this leaves the timings of the two acts feeling a little unbalanced.
Act one boasts a lengthy roughly 85-minute running time, with act 2 coming in at just 45 minutes approximately, leaving act one feeling rather stretched out and act 2 feeling a little bit rushed. This unbalance isn’t aided by the positioning of the songs within the story itself. ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, undoubtedly, features some great songs, but those great songs are, in my opinion, all in act one. ‘Good Morning’, ‘Moses Supposes’, ‘All I Do Is Dream Of You’, ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’, all in act one. This leaves act 2 feeling a little bit repetitive, opening with the ensemble performing a version of ‘Good Morning’ and featuring 4 different versions of ‘Would You’, along with the long Broadway Melody ballet that takes up roughly a quarter of the entire act. As impressive as this dance number is with its multiple costume changes, it may not be suited to the attention span of today’s younger audiences, going on for longer than perhaps necessary, especially seeing as it does very little to add anything to the plot. If this unbalance in length between the two acts could be sorted, I feel that show would feel better paced, but this would require some rethinking for the song positioning.
Overall, ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ is a love letter to the golden age of Hollywood with its glitz and glamour, highlighting the move from silent to talking in a comical manner whilst depicting the struggles faced by those making the change. Thoroughly entertaining, if not a little bit too long in places, with standout performances throughout, and you’re sure to leave the theatre with a song stuck in your head.