Book: Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Music: Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics: Arthur Freed
Director: Jonathan Church
During a heatwave a downpour might just be the ticket. But tickets for Chichester Festival Theatre and Jonathan Church’s stunning production of Singin’ in the Rain are in high demand as it nears the end of its huge UK tour. Voted in the top twenty films of all time, the Gene Kelly classic can attract a massive following as the 1952 screen favourite has stood the test of time for 70 years.
It is 1927 Hollywood and the glamorous industry is on a knife edge as new technology is revolutionising film. The Jazz Singer, a talkie, has left silent film for dust meaning the studios and movie stars they hire must quickly play catch up. Monumental Films’ screen idols Don Lockwood (Sam Lips) and Lina Lamont (Jenny Gayner) are in trouble. Don has some talent from his days of vaudeville but Lina is a triple threat – she can’t act; she can’t sing and she can’t dance! With the arrival of love interest and aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Charlotte Gooch), an audacious plot is hatched with the help of sidekick Cosmo Brown (Ross McLaren) to rescue the picture being made, The Duelling Cavalier, by dubbing over the talentless Lina with the gifted Kathy.
Judging by the whistles entering the theatre, there is no doubt that Singin’ in the Rain has a special place in the public’s affection. It is a wise choice, therefore, to directly transplant the screenplay from the film to the stage. Purists will be glad to hear that the stage production does not miss a screen moment. In fact, it is almost a word-for-word and scene-for scene retelling of story and choreography – except for the overtures at the beginning of the acts. Jonathan Church’s faithful direction and Simon Higlett’s design makes it feel like you are somehow watching a live version of the film.
This is an enormous production. With a cast approaching thirty strong, a full band and exquisite set and costume this is a show with no expense spared. The results are authentic reproductions of the famous set pieces, none more so impressive than the stunningly colourful Gotta Dance sequence lavishly performed by the entire cast. Favourites like Good Morning, Make ‘Em Laugh, Moses Supposes and of course the splashtastic titular song keep the audience enthralled in a love affair with a musical that is clearly dearly loved.
And it is the love between Don and Kathy that soaks this production with ardour. Despite a dated questionable remark by Don that he will marry her (even though he hasn’t even asked her!) the show exudes romance, especially when he serenades her during Beautiful Girl. But it isn’t all mush. It is genuinely also funny. As Lina, Jenny Gayner’s shrill voice and deluded opinion of herself is hilarious. She comes close to stealing the show as the comic foil. Ross McLaren’s Cosmo performs the infamous Make ‘Em Laugh with expert athleticism. Sam Lips is exceptionally talented and exudes Gene Kelly elegance and charm as the dashing Lockwood but Charlotte Gooch’s performance as Kathy is the show-stealer. As the underdog she has our investment but her incredible vocals and elegant dance capabilities are flawless.
Lockwood sings about having a smile on his face during the infamous number and it is impossible not to watch this show without beaming too. It is stunningly colourful and utterly joyous in all senses of the word.
Runs until 16th July 2022, before continuing on tour.