There is no greater source of joy for me than the sound of tap shoes during a scene of straight acting. Hearing that click-clack on the floor of the ADC brought joy into my heart, and reminded me of the excitement I got from seeing shows like this in the past. However, Singin’ in the Rain was riddled with faults, from static direction, to uninspired choreography, that sadly left me bored with one of my favourite musicals.
Having grown up with Gene Kelly, Singin in the Rain is firmly in my top five favourite films of all time. I, therefore, came into the show with high expectations of a joyous night out with rain, tap dancing, and more. The technological aspects of the performance were flawless (I heard audible gasps when the rain started to pour), with a particular mention to the rustic film screen and German Expressionist apartment buildings, designed by Annabelle York and Jonathan Powell, and beautiful lighting design from Sam Porter-Frakes, seen most evocatively in a scene between Claire Lee Shenfield’s Kathy and Justin Wilson’s Don in an empty sound stage, which perfectly displayed their growing romantic feelings towards one another, and I very much enjoyed the costuming, designed by Amy Meyer, with a simple shirt and braces combo for the ensemble simply demonstrating the time setting, and some beautiful period pieces in the Broadway Ballet sequence. The curtain call also had a great collection of umbrellas that were used very effectively!
There were also some lovely moments of choreography, a highlight being the signed medley at the end of the show, and the virtuosic group performance at the head of the musical. However, for a show that relies so much on dance, I feel like we did not see the musical at its full capacity. The choreography was broadly forgettable, with no throughline, and was often delivered with a sense of apathy. Choreography is usually the thing I remember most about musicals like this, with crazy ideas sticking in my head for a long time after a show has finished. The tap dancing, however, felt like it was made on a randomised setting, switching through stock sequences to create something slightly different for each scene. This was most obvious in the titular song, as well as some of the more extended dance sequences, where things just seemed to… happen. Writing this about twelve hours after leaving the theatre, I cannot remember anything particular about any of the dance scenes, apart from a very funny arm and leg movement in ‘Fit as a Fiddle’, where Don and Cosmo (Rosie McLeish, doubled by Chani Merrell) performed in synchronicity with their past selves. Some solo performances were particularly good, however, with attention to be paid to McLeish’s performance as Cosmo Brown. She had a great physicality about her, which made ‘Make Them Laugh’ a very fun watch, despite the confused choreography. Sophie Craddock’s Lina Lamont also stole the show, with whoops and cheers after her solo song.
The show was also lacking vocally, with several actors being out of tune for the majority of their songs, and what seemed to be a greater focus on technique than musical interpretation. This meant that some songs struggled to make their way off the ground, which wasn’t helped by the disorganisation of the band, which I hope smartens up in the rest of the run of the show. The focus on musical technique meant that a lot of the feeling of the songs was lost, especially in the title song, where Wilson’s vocals were so quiet I couldn’t get the joy of love that is present in the film and stage versions usually. There were some stand out performances musically, however – the solo violin solo in ‘Fit as a Fiddle’ was very well played, and the horn section consistently played very well. There were multiple times where the music was far too quiet, which meant that the dancers got out of time with the music, and the tap from the tap shoes got so loud that I couldn’t hear the band at all.
The highlight of the production for me was the extended filmed sections, which were very humorous and had me and the surrounding audience members in stitches. The first time that synchronised sound is presented in a Lockwood and Lamont film was done very, very well, and it was definitely the funniest and slickest part of the production. There was also a surprise cameo for the talkie demonstrator, which was delivered with a lot of charisma and reacted to well onstage by the cast. Scenes outside of these usually dragged, and there were often times in the second half where I was very bored.
Therefore, while sometimes delivering on the spectacle promised, Singin’ in the Rain is sadly lacking in many areas, although it is most definitely worth seeing for the rain and some beautiful pieces of set!