Singing' in the Rain - July 2014

Ice, wind and fire – I’ve seen it all at the Bristol Hippodrome - and now I have seen rain pouring onto the stage, gallons of it.

Based on the iconic 1950s film with Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds the stage version of Singin’ in the Rain opened has this week.

Dirty Dancing’s big splash in Bristol was a bit of a belly flop but this is akin to watching Mathew Bourne’s corp de ballet perform Swan Lake in a raging torrent.

And the water buckets where here at the ready when hot, hot, hot Riverdance featured some amazing pyrotechnics but this is sensational tap dancers hoofing around in a huge paddling pool – it’s musical comedy as its best.

This show is feelgood from the first few seconds.

The people sitting in the stalls got a bit wet but it was so funny and Singin’ in the Rain souvenir umbrellas are on sale in the foyer.

The audience were buzzing with excitement on Wednesday night and I heard ‘brilliant, brilliant, brilliant’, ‘best show ever’ and ‘I knew all the words to the songs’ being murmured on the way out.

Many were humming and if they could whistling the title tune.

Singin’ in the Rain is the story of the arrival of the talkies and its impact on the silent movie stars of the time.

It revolves around the shooting of a fictional film called The Duelling Cavalier being made to rival the first ever for real talking movie, The Jazz Singer, circa 1927.

The dilemma for the film bosses was how to make a film about the French Revolution to include tap dancing not to mention synchronized wing-walking and a gambolling gorilla.

Coronation Street actress Vicky Binns plays Lina Lamont the dumb blonde siren with the screeching tonsils.

She has a Deep South drawl like a foghorn and unfortunately a singing voice far removed from that of Greek mythology.

The animated character is so reminiscent of a young Sandra Dickinson but was in fact mirroring the ultimate 1920s ‘it’ girl Clara Bow whose whining voice was her downfall.

TALENTED TRIO: From left James Leece as Don, Amy Ellen Richardson as Kathy and Stephane Anelli as Cosmo in Singin’ in the Rain

For publicity purposes the film company Monumental Pictures plants stories of a ‘showmance’ in Big Brother parlay between Miss Lamont and her leading man played by Royal Ballet School trained actor James Leece.

His stamina and statue as Don Lockwood is breathtaking.

Unfortunately multi-married Miss Lamont believes everything she reads in glossy celeb magazines and is convinced her co-star is passionately in love with her... cue trouble.

Songbird Amy Ellen Richardson (Kathy Selden) is the voiceover artist and love interest – she reminds me of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? reality show winner Connie Fisher - and Stephane Anelli as musically gifted Cosmo Brown complete the tremendously talented trio.

But for me Vicky Binns shines brightest as the fading silent star even when she looked like Miss Piggy after the cream cake in the face slapstick routine.

Maxwell Caulfield who played Miles Colby in the 1980s cult series Dynasty Max and is married to actress Juliet Mills will also be remembered by fans from his lead role in the 1982 film Grease 2 opposite Michelle Pfeiffer and appearance on British television on Casualty and Emmerdale.

Max is marvellously typecast as the wooden studio boss and the red carpet sequences with character television actor Jacqueline Clark taking the part of a Hollywood radio interviewer link the excellent production together seamlessly.

With shutter-fast precision and frame-by-frame timing the movement is crisp and exciting.

The chorus line, choreography and costumes are first rate – this is a show that looks and sounds like it belongs on Broadway.

The clothes ranged from bright yellow wet weather wear including sow'westers to glamorous Art Deco beaded dresses reminiscent of the era.

For the technocrats more than 12,000 litres of recyclable water pours out from overhead sprinklers and underfloor vents every performance through half a mile of flexible pipework from a 10 tonne tank. Phew.

Singin’ in the Rain plays until Saturday, August 9.

Carol Deacon