Talk about a tough act to follow. The film version of Singin’ in the Rain is an iconic piece of 20th century entertainment history, and Gene Kelly’s splashing tap dance through the puddles is regularly voted one of the greatest movie moments of all time.
Even the stage version, adapted as late as 1980 by the original screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, itself became a landmark production, giving Tommy Steele one of his biggest hits in a hit-filled career.
Now UK Productions are taking the show out on the road again, complete with those fabulous song-and-dance numbers, a superbly drilled live band and, yes, buckets of rain.
Stepping into the two-tone tap shoes is experienced leading man Tim Flavin – not quite a name of John Barrowman proportions, but with all the qualifications and bags of talent. He evokes Kelly’s matchless warmth and ease with understated charm, and both his voice and his feet are unquestionably up to the job.
The winning Flavin plays Don Lockwood, a silent movie star struggling to make the transition to the Talkies. Unfortunately, he’s held back by his co-star Lina Lamont, whose squeaky, irritating voice will spell the end of her career if a solution isn’t found.
That solution comes in the form of sweet-voiced Kathy Selden, who gamely dubs Lamont’s role on screen and naturally steals Don’s heart.
Jessica Punch makes a pleasant Kathy, the physical exertions of the role proving well within her capabilities.
But it’s Don’s sidekick Cosmo Brown – his long-term double-act partner and friend – who nabs the real glory, not unlike the underrated Donald O’Connor in the film.
Cosmo is played by the hugely talented and likeable Graeme Henderson, who also choreographs the show with more than a nod to Kelly’s screen direction. As a performer, Henderson is relaxed, confident and oh so nimble in a part that inherently plays second fiddle to the central pairing. But he also makes use of many of the film’s icons – the lamppost, the sofa tipping over, the clown routine in Make ’Em Laugh – to display a considerable flair on the other side of the footlights.
Director Alison Pollard, of course, has her own part to play in the way the show rattles along through its witty script and luscious numbers, and the resulting production is glossy, smooth and joyous. From the opening notes of the overture, you just can’t help whistlin’ that tune, tappin’ those toes and… well, singin’ in the rain.
- Michael Davies (review from the Milton Keynes leg of the tour)