The irony of watching Singin’ In The Rain on the hottest day of the year was not lost on me. However, thankfully the Bristol Hippodrome had its air con turned up to the max, so it was pleasantly cool.
I’m sure you all know the plot from the classic Gene Kelly movie; Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are silent movie actors with a public relationship that keep the fans guessing. Behind the scenes, Don meets Kathy, an actress who is all for the move into talking pictures. When the studio decide to make their own Lockwood and Lamont talking picture, Kathy steps into dub for Miss Lamont, and she and Don fall in love.
It’s not the most inspiring plot in the world, and it doesn’t require an audience to think, but that is perhaps where the beauty lies in this show. It is a thoroughly enjoyable evening out. This Chichester Festival cast is outstanding in its talent and dedication to the performance.
The energy was palpable and the cast never let it drop for one minute. The action scenes were perfectly executed, with each and every person knowing exactly what they were doing and throwing themselves into doing it.
This show requires a cast that can not only sing but also dance incredibly well. There is nowhere to hide, and I’m happy to say that there wasn’t a weak dancer among them. Special kudos to the two male leads; James Leece as Don Lockwood and Stephane Anelli as his best friend Cosmo for their incredible tap dancing, even if Leece did seem terribly out of breath at one point when required to deliver dialogue right after a heavy routine. To be fair, I’d have needed resus.
As the lead male, James Leece has all you could ask for. The swooning matinee idol looks, the dancing and singing talent as well as perfect execution of lines, and though weaker, Amy Ellen Richardson was well cast as his love interest, Kathy. The only criticism I would have of her is that while the others seemed to fill their roles naturally, sometimes she seemed to be acting a little too much, if you see what I mean.
The comedic elements are what drive the show along from one big number to the next, with special mention going to Paul Grunert as exasperated director Roscoe Dexter. Vicky Binns as Lina Lamont was a revelation. I’m always wary of soap stars being cast in stage shows, but she really delivered, and even if her piercing Lamont twang was a little too high pitched to be understood clearly at times, it really didn’t matter. She was thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
The stand out star of the show though, was Stephane Anelli as Cosmo Brown. Where has he been hiding all my life? Right from the very start, my attentions were drawn to him. The man has a natural gift for physical comedy; I could have watched him performing “Make ‘Em Laugh,” again and again. I can’t praise him enough, and the loud cheer and standing ovation for him at the end confirmed that the rest of the audience thought the same.
The big number, you know the one, with the rain, comes at the end of the first half. The inevitable comparisons between Lecce’s execution and Gene Kelly’s performance are always going to be made but honestly, I just enjoyed it for what it was. I was also very grateful not to have been seated in the front few rows, as Leece seemed to take great delight in giving the audience a good soaking. He danced it to perfection, and the staging is perfect.
An awful lot of craft and skill must go into a touring production involving so much water, and I’m happy to say it paid off. I was also glad they did a reprise at the end, because it really was so much fun to see.
I had never seen this stage show before, and I left feeling like I’d had a thoroughly good time. I would definitely go again, and I’d take the family as the plot is simple enough for my children to understand and the show would certainly keep them entertained. I’m all for theatre that makes you think, but sometimes it’s jolly good fun to just sit back and enjoy something simple and light, which is exactly what Singin’ In The Rain brings. I wish them a very successful remainder of their tour.