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singin in the rain

The Gene Kelly classic made a fleeting visit to the Alex in Birmingham last week. Terry Wills joined an appreciative audience.

1952… Hollywood. Home of Metro Golden Mayer’ THE acknowleged film studio that reined supreme in the art of producing smash hit Blockbusting musicals.

The year that premiered ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ a movie that after initially receiving mixed reviews, was subsequently accorded the ultimate honour by one U.S. critic. “The greatest Hollywood musical ever made!”

That’s a subjective opinion of course but nearly 60 years on the title song has been seen and heard on video, DVD, film and stage, not forgetting television screens courtesy of Morecambe and Wise, while a brilliant TV advert gave even further exposure!

So what is the appeal of this much- oved musical, and how does the current touring production compare with the original 1980 production that proved a popular Box office success at the London Palladium before embarking on a successful nationwide tour?

First, for those of a younger generation unaware of the story line, its set in Hollywood’s roaring 20’s. A decade when silent movies reigned supreme.
The stars the most revered’ and talked about individuals, and if living today would be seen on the front covers of OK magazine for months if not years on end.

At a premiere of their latest triumph, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, arrive in a blaze of glory with Don expressing, courtesy of national radio, how humbled they were to be accorded such a fantastic reception.

Not a single word from Lina for the simple reason she has a voice that could be doubled as a bird scarier!

(Not the appeal expected from her shimmering outward looking glamorous blonde appearance)

The studio head, R.F. Simpson, springs a surprise at a post show get together to celebrate their latest movie triumph by demonstrating a new novelty.
A ‘talking picture’. Sardonic laughter all round until the first feature film ‘The Jazz Singer’ became a smash hit overnight success

R. F. demands his studio competes, ordering Don and Lina to adapt to the new technology. Ok in theory but what can be done to overcome the appalling vocals of Miss Lamont?

Meanwhile Don, recognised by a group of his adoring fans, meets Kathy Selden a girl who turns out to have a perfect singing voice compared to Lina.

They fall in love, and together with Don’s closest friend, Cosmo Brown, devise a simple method of overcoming Lina’s handicap. Kathy will dub Lina’s songs and lyrics a fact that Miss Lamont has no idea is happening.

R.F. thinks it’s a great idea but insists Lina is kept from discovering a truth that would send her inflated ego exploding in a series of unrestrained rages.
(As if this could be kept a secret!)

That’s the brief outline but along the way there are twists and turns. Tuneful songs, funny scenes, especially as Lina vainly attempts to learn the process of speaking into a microphone. Laughter all round as she fails miserably.

Any stage adaptation hoping to emulate the success of a smash hit film faces obvious drawbacks. Compared with a vast studio back lot, a more intimate stage setting poses problems. So congratulations have to go the producers on successfully overcoming the problem.

Typified in ‘Broadway Melody’ when the ‘hoofers’ demonstrate their dancing expertise in a range of colourful costumes. For me the show’s highlight.

(For those who saw 42nd Street at the Alex in 2007 to enjoy the exciting impressive tap dancing routines it’s worth pointing out three of that cast are making a welcome return)

Thankfully the songs featured in the original film and stage productions have been retained with little or no change. ‘Fit as a Fiddle’- ‘You stepped out of a Dream’ –‘Make em Laugh’-‘Good Morning’ ‘Beautiful Girl’- ‘You were meant for me’-‘Lucky Star’ and ‘Would You’.

All topped by the incomparable ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ as Don hangs from a lamppost, splashes around in puddles, before handing his umbrella to a grateful passer by.

Tim Flavin, a familiar name in theatre musicals, plays Don Lockwood with suitable aplomb. Jessica Punch is a splendid Kathy Selden while Graeme Henderson is a highly comical Cosmo Brown.

Robert Traynor as the studio head gives a subtle portrayal while Amy Griffiths as the toneless Lina Lamont evokes much laughter especially when ‘singing’ into a mirror “What’s wrong with me”

Summing up this latest production of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ for me is very simple.

If theatregoers enjoy a night of pure nostalgia, foot- tapping numbers, and excellent dancing this is the show to relive your possibly (?) long forgotten memories depicting the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood.

Singin In The Rain completed its run at the Alex on Saturday. For details of up and coming shows click here


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