Songs: Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Original Screenplay: Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Director: Jonathan Church
It’s 1927 and the world is about to change for Lockwood and Lamont and the entire movie industry. Their latest silent feature film has been released to great acclaim but it is the end of an era. The Jazz Singer is hot on its tails and now the audience wants talkies. This was a genuinely trying time as some of the stars of the silver screen gracefully retired as they simply couldn’t sound as good as they looked. But that won’t happen to Lockwood and Lamont, surely?
Lockwood came up through vaudeville, so he is used to engaging with an audience, but Lamont, her Brooklyn accent so thick you could cut it with a knife, is less well-endowed vocally. Lockwood and his old vaudeville partner, Cosmo, together with Lockwood’s new girlfriend, Kathy, save the day by inventing overdubbing so that Kathy’s silken tones are substituted for the blackboard-scratching pain of Lamont’s. Except that Lamont doesn’t know and when she finds out she’s going to be a laughing stock, well, you’d best stand clear.
Based on the 1952 classic film, Singin’ in the Rain is pure, unadulterated, escapist entertainment. One can simply sit back and wallow in the classy dance sequences and familiar songs. The principals have big shoes to fill, not least Sam Lips as Lockwood, the role taken by Gene Kelly in the film, but they step up to the mark perfectly. Lips’ light voice can vary in mood from the romantic to flippant in a heartbeat while his dancing skills are breathtaking, whether in tap sequences or the extended balletic sequences. His manner remains suave and, of course, the titular routine that closes the first act is quite spectacular as rain pours onto the stage. Supporting Lockwood all the way is his vaudeville friend, Cosmo, played by Ross McLaren. McLaren is an energetic foil to Lips’ Lockwood, with a ready, cheeky smile and a twinkle in his eyes. Charlotte Gooch brings us the idealistic Kathy Selden, who, at first immune to Lockwood’s charm, is finally won over. Her voice is silky smooth and her dancing impeccable. This central trio is a tribute to the casting director’s art as they gel magnificently. Plenty of comic relief is provided by Jenny Gayner’s Lina Lamont, who, try as she might, cannot get to grips with the skills needed for the talkies. The accent never slips and she is quite believable as the rather unintelligent, but attractive, sidekick. Gayner is also the very embodiment of the saying that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned when Lamont discovers the deception and takes action.
Supporting the main cast is an impressively talented – and energetic – ensemble navigating Andrew Wright’s choreography with precision. Whether tapping, spinning or leaping balletically, they provide a visual feast. And, of course, they can sing superbly too. It all takes place on a largely empty stage that evokes a film studio well, letting the performances shine through.
The story might be simple and predictable, but for style and class, it’s hard to imagine Singin’ in the Rain being bettered.
Runs Until 11 June 2022 and on tour