It doesn’t have much of a plot, its songs were mostly recycled from earlier productions, and the star was suffering a fever when he had to film the title song-and-dance routine, getting soaked to the skin in a shrinking wool suit.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? But this was Singin’ in the Rain, MGM’s 1952 musical comedy, which is now regarded as the best musical of all time, and one of Hollywood’s greatest films.
Certainly, it has a broad appeal which reaches those (like me) who wouldn’t normally cross the street to see a musical.
Perhaps it’s the setting at the birth of talking pictures, which appeals to movie fans (and history geeks), the spectacularly athletic (and often slapstick-comic) dance routines, or the humour of the Cosmo Brown character off-setting the saccharin sweetness of the romance between the leads.
Whatever the reason, Singin’ in the Rain is now delighting audiences in a stage production, touring Britain and Ireland, after its West End run. I was lucky to catch it at the Wales Millennium Centre, just before it left Cardiff.
Matthew Maltman stepped into the (wet) shoes of regular lead James Leece as Don Lockwood (the Gene Kelly role in the film) for the New Year’s Day performance, while Amy Ellen Richardson convinces as the adorable and talented Kathy Selden (a 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds in the movie), and Stephane Anelli gets most of the laughs in the Donald O’Connor role of Cosmo.
I should also mention Faye from Steps (a very popular pop group from the ’90s, you may recall). All grown up as Faye Tozer, she also raises some chuckles as Lina Lamont – the dumb blonde silent-film star with the grating Noo Yoik accent, played by Oscar nominee Jean Hagen in the original.
As someone who really doesn’t like musicals at all (except this one), I absolutely loved the stage show, almost as much as the film. The dance numbers are sensational – with all that water splashing about, the first few rows of the stalls get pretty wet, and the orchestra has to be tucked away above and behind the action, where it stays dry.
Singin’ in the Rain visits major cities throughout England, Scotland and Ireland until the autumn. It’s high-quality escapist fun. If you have a funny bone in your body, and a toe to tap, I suggest you splash out on a ticket. This is the musical that rains supreme.