Not very many years ago simply mentioning musicals by amateur dramatic groups conjured up images of a bunch of “wannabes” performing on dodgy stages with wobbly scenery and just a piano to accompany their, village hall, performance but “am dram” in the 21st century as come a very long way.
The current production from the Rattonions, Eastbourne’s premier amateur company, is playing at the 1600 seat Congress Theatre for 10 days and boasts an orchestra of 15 players, a cast of incredibly talented performers, most of whom are teenagers, and the very best sound and lighting systems available – giving the audience the opportunity to witness a show that easily leaves many professional productions in its incredibly talented wake.
Singin’ in the Rain is a very difficult show to stage as the action moves on at a breakneck pace with, particularly in the first act, scene change after scene change. It requires the principals to change costumes frequently and, just in case that isn’t enough, contains some of the most difficult and iconic dance routines ever staged – but this company take all that in their stride.
Alex Adams is the young man stepping into Gene Kelly’s shoes as silent movie star Don Lockwood with Daniel Garnham, as Lockwood’s best friend Cosmo Brown, taking up the task of recreating Donald O'Connor’s amazing dance routines, but both performers rise to the challenge well with strong voices, superb dance skills and consummate acting ability.
Garnham gives absolutely all he has to the “Make ‘em Laugh” routine and doesn’t shy away from the incredibly physical aspects of the piece. He throws himself over the sofa with, what appears to be, scant regard for the danger and his complete exhaustion at the end of the routine is acknowledged by rapturous applause.
Kathy Selden is played by Aimee Dyer and she gives a wonderfully innocent performance and remains dignified, despite the provocation from Emily Davis as Lockwood’s screechy voiced co-star Lina Lamont. Both women hold their accents well and, although their characters could not be more different, both excel in their roles.
The leads are supported well by the full cast, but special mention must go to Grant Martins who belts out a superb version of “Beautiful Girls”, to David Morley as studio boss R. F. Simpson, to Daphne O'Mahony, the Costume Workshop on the Isle of Wight and the company’s own wardrobe team for the exquisite and colourful outfits and to Peter Gurr for the brilliant silent movies he filmed at Herstmonceax Castle.
Of course, no production of Singin’ in the Rain would be complete without possibly the most famous movie dance scene ever and, following an amazingly quick scene change, the curtain opens to reveal that famous street, complete with vast amounts of rain. Adams sings, tap dances, swings round the lamp post and puddle jumps as if his life depends on it and creates, without doubt, the highlight of the show.
Producers Mark and Melanie Adams, together with choreographer Jan Lynton, have created a tight, slick, fast-paced and, dare I say it, extremely professional production of which they, together with their superb cast, should be incredibly proud.