For the most part, this hotly-anticipated touring version of West End success Singin’ in the Rain is a little style over substance.
The tale of an American movie studio struggling to move with the times and embrace talking pictures, problems are made worse when its leading lady, Lina Lamont (Vicky Binns), is revealed to have a dreadful speaking voice. Her screen – and for publicity purposes, life – partner Don Lockwood (James Leece) meets a aspiring actress Kathy (Amy Ellen Richardson) when on the run from a screaming mob of fans, and is instantly smitten; he persuades movie boss RF Simpson (Maxwell Caulfield) to let Kathy dub all Lina’s roles in secret.
The show opens with fanfare outside the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, but until the act ends with Don’s Singin’ in the Rain, things do drag a bit. This show is simply so polished there isn’t really time to invest in any of the characters – it’s only until the second act that Vicky Binns really gets to have fun with screechy Brooklynite Lina and things get interesting. Perhaps the main problem is Don and Kathy’s romance – completely dull and predictable, while we’re supposed to be willing Kathy on to greater things I really wanted Lina (clearly also a small-town girl made good) to keep the upper hand.
Make ‘Em Laugh – a big hitter performed by Don’s best pal Cosmo (a boundlessly energetic performance from Stephane Anelli) was so over-calculated it lost a lot of its punch. The title song, however, did not disappoint, providing the required level of spectacle (still not entirely convinced by the love story, but something had to get him around to sploshing about). As someone who’s watched Grease 2 far too many times than should be allowed, it would have been nice to see more of Maxwell Caulfield, whose studio boss never seemed to have much to do.
Act two was more like it. Binns raised the game and demonstrated great stage presence with her tuneless comedy lament What’s Wrong with Me?, and the Broadway Ballet fantasy scene was worth the ticket price alone – the stage bursting with colour, beautiful costumes and dazzling routines led by Jenny Legg. There’s also a cast reprise of Singin’ in the Rain for a crowd pleasing finale.
A bit more chemistry and soul would help this production a little bit. Then again, I just resorted to actually writing “did not disappoint” and “worth the ticket price alone” in one hackneyed review, so maybe I shouldn’t be allowed an opinion on the matter.
[Photo is of West End, not touring cast]