By Abra Dunsby
It’s arguably the world’s favourite movie musical. Iconic and euphoric, the 1952 MGM smash hit Singin’ in the Rain is famed for its title scene in which, infantilised by love, Gene Kelly dances and sploshes mischievously on puddle-strewn streets. Creating a similar impact for the West end stage was never going to be easy, as proved by the lukewarm reception following the London Palladium’s 1983 adaptation. However, following a critically-acclaimed run at Chichester Festival, Jonathan Church’s current revival at the Palace Theatre definitely makes a splash.
The action takes place in pre-depression Hollywood, as the rise of the ‘talkie’ deals a hammer blow to Silent Film. Movie star Don Lockwood has it all; success, good looks and a studio-contrived romance with his beautiful co-star, Lina Lamont. But with the release of ‘talkie’ The Jazz Singer, and following a brief encounter with a talented new kid on the block, Lockwood’s life is about to change.
Church’s adaptation is faithful enough to the original to keep the swarms of die-hard fans happy in their seats. However, Andrew Wright and Simon Higlett shake things up – Wright with gloriously enthralling choreography, and Higlett with a dazzling set.
There are some sterling performances; Cooper is spot-on as likeable cheeky-chappy Lockwood, Daniel Crossley’s Cosmo Brown delivers an effortlessly funny rendition of ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’, and Jennifer Ellison is gratingly squeaky as dimwit diva, Lina Lamont. Although there is a lack of chemistry between Lockwood and Kathy, derived from an absence of acting aplomb from Scarlett Strallen, she more than makes up for it in her musical numbers and sparkles when she sings.
Church’s Singin in the Rain’ is an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza that is flecked with nostalgia for the innocence of a bygone age. Yet it is the visually wondrous staging of the title number that truly steals the show. As the rain spills onto the stage and a gleeful Cooper splashes majestically to the soaring sounds of the orchestra, even the most cynical members of the audience will find themselves shivering with pure delight.