Review Round-up: Singin' in the Rain makes a splash
The production, which premiered last year at the Chichester Festival Theatre to positive reviews, has received a similarly gushing critical response in the capital.
Based on the 1952 MGM film, Singin’ in the Rain stars Scarlett Strallen as Kathy Seldon, Adam Cooper as Don Lockwood and Daniel Crossley as Cosmo Brown, who reprise their roles from the original Chichester production.
“Last summer’s Chichester Festival Theatre pick-me-up has duly stormed the Palace Theatre … Ebony Molina is every bit as jazzy and bewitching as was Cyd Charisse in the film … Jonathan Church’s production starts a little shakily with a too busy prologue during the overture … and the arrival of guests … down the centre aisle only reinforces a lack of focus … Cooper’s line, agility and charm carry the show, while Crossley is a delightful foil … Scarlett Strallen is a sweetly accurate and demure Debbie Reynolds clone, singing beautifully, and the statuesque Katherine Kingsley drives you suitably mad … Her second act song, 'What’s Wrong With Me?' … Kingsley just buries it alive … The rain at the end of each act is tremendous … The highlight of Simon Higlett’s superb design and Tim Mitchell’s lighting is the irresistible explosion of pastel suits, flashing legs and Manhattan skyline in ‘Broadway Melody’ … Not too many liberties are taken with Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s screenplay, and each song of Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed is greeted with an exhalation of pleasure in the audience … Andrew Wright’s choreography is sharp, funny and detailed … Notably good support performances from Michael Brandon … and Peter Forbes as the flustered director Roscoe Dexter.”
“The show offers almost three hours of continuous pleasure … If Singin’ in the Rain lacks the beguiling subtlety and sly wit of that new movie, it more than makes up for it with its broad buoyant humour, generosity of spirit and delightfully tuneful score … Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s script is full of great gags and moments of deeper feeling ... The cast is terrific … Cooper brings a mixture of charm, humour, nonchalance, and spectacularly fleet feet to the role of Don Lockwood ... He sings with great feeling too and exudes the kind of charisma that can light up a whole theatre. Scarlett Strallen combines sweet innocence with a touch of poignancy … Daniel Crossley offers terrific comic value in the best-friend role … A blissfully funny performance from Katherine Kingsley … Kingsley’s ability to combine pathos with vicious malevolence strikes me as little short of miraculous … the whole show is something of a miracle, not least the spectacular staging of the title number … This is a night of sheer delight.”
“The production contains sequences as rapturously enjoyable (the electric choreography is by Andrew Wright) as any I have seen in a stage musical … What mars the show …is that there are places where the desire to do nothing if not knock the audience dead again and again brings in a faintly metallic and driven feel to the proceedings ... Virtuoso song-and-dance can develop a harshness that obscures the heartfelt. In some of the numbers … the astonishing feats of varied tone and dynamics … seamlessly segueing between different modes and moods of dance within the one song, feel like the euphoric outpouring of uncontainable joy from within the characters. But there are other numbers where it feels more like a 'medley' and producers' overkill. So when 'Good Morning, Good Morning' is reprised at the start of the second half … it's comparatively flat because it comes across as emotionally inorganic … I won't, though, be able to watch Gene Kelly stomping in puddles ever again without feeling too dry and bit excluded. Making a bigger and live splash, Adam Cooper boots great sprays of rain water over the over the stalls in a blissful baptism of theatrical H2O. Enchantingly he becomes like a mischievous little boy in the giddiness of his love … The band pounds out precision playing. Katherine Kingsley though funny, is too much of a drag act for my taste”
“The stage version … can't eclipse memories of the film. But Jonathan Church's deft new production, launched at Chichester last year, certainly makes a splash … Writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green introduce a distinctly satirical edge ... There's also plenty of zest in Nacio Herb Brown's music and Arthur Freed's lyrics. The favourite songs are generously rendered: 'Good Morning', 'Moses Supposes', and of course the title number, during which the front five or six rows of the audience get liberally splattered. This could be irritating, yet actually it's exhilarating, and the infectious brolly-twirling glee makes a welcome return at the curtain call. Adam Cooper is likeable as Lockwood, with fantastic dance skills. There's engaging work from Daniel Crossley as pal Cosmo. Katherine Kingsley has an irresistible comic touch as Lina, and Scarlett Strallen radiates warmth as Kathy. There are neat performances in supporting roles notably Michael Brandon as a studio boss, elegant design by Simon Higlett and ingenious video by Ian William Galloway, which draws some of the biggest laughs. It's crowd-pleasing stuff. The memory of Gene Kelly may not be banished, but this is a buoyant revival, lit up by Andrew Wright's superlative choreography.”
“Jonathan Church’s production was a huge hit in Chichester last year and it’s looking as good as ever. That alone is no mean feat because this is a technically demanding show … tumultuously choreographed by Andrew Wright … It’s got feelgood factor galore with the added bonus of shameless nostalgia. You simply can’t help but love it. Up to a point that is, because if we’re honest, the show doesn’t offer anything that the film doesn’t. Except that it’s live. And as a live performance it is hugely energising. Adam Cooper as the lead Hollywood star of the story isn’t exactly drenched in Gene Kelly charisma … But he can surely dance, and when his big moment comes he isn’t so much singing and dancing as surfing in the rain … Crossley is an equally accomplished dancer and their tap routines together are a joy … The leading ladies stole the show. Katherine Kingsley…has a singing voice like nails dragged down a blackboard. It takes talent to sound this shocking. But the undisputed star is Scarlett Strallen … She has a voice like mountain spring water and shapely dancing pins to match … The producers have one of the hits of the year.”
“This is not a flawless adaptation — a sprawling first half needs more vim in its spoken moments, and the central trio of Adam Cooper, Scarlett Strallen and Daniel Crossley can’t challenge the charm of Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor … This is an enjoyable evening, which at its best simply soars … While Cooper earns our respect as a singer and an actor, it’s when this former ballet star dances that he earns our adulation. In the film, the long Broadway Melody sequence is a gorgeous indulgence. Here, it’s the high spot. It…brings the best out of Andrew Wright’s choreography and Cooper’s sinuous frame. Pure joy. But then so is the title tune … Crossley’s set piece, 'Make ‘Em Laugh' … Nicely done. After that, three slow songs together cause a slight lull. But then Cooper, Crossley and David Lucas…turn the place wild in the rhythmical interplay of 'Moses Supposes' … As the story intensifies … the show becomes an extroverted entity in itself rather than just a nifty pastiche … Katherine Kingsley gives a star-making performance … The show itself is a bit of a fairground ride: a cautious start, and then it’s up and running and you won’t want to think of anything else.”
- Amy Sheppard