Friday, 8 June 2018

Singin' In The Rain - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.

This is possibly, with the exception of White Christmas, the world's most known and best-loved film Musical, and so it seems strange that it had to wait until 1983 before someone adapted it for the stage. With music by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, and a story by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, it was a winning collaboration which ensured the show's longevity and popularity.

It tells the story of a successful movie studio in the 1920s and the studio's two stars,  Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont. Matinee Idols of the silent movies, but as the new 'fashion-that-will never-last' talking pictures start to garner interest and popularity, the studio is failing and realises it needs to start making talkies too in order to survive. There is one problem with this however - Lamont's voice!  What a stroke of luck then that Lockwood just happens to find and fall madly in love with a young actress with the voice of an angel! Of course nothing runs smoothly, but love and virtue win the day and all ends happily ever after.

This evening I was at The Lowry to see SMTC (Salford Musical Theatre Company) proudly present their version on the Quays Theatre stage. With a professional set and lovely costumes (and an extremely tight and rushed 'get-in' and tech run!) the whole looked excellent despite some thing not exactly going as planned or running quite as smoothly as they should [but these will get slicker for further performances]. And with a fabulously sounding live band in the pit under the direction of Ed Nurse those famous showstopping numbers for which this show is so famous sounded great. Christine Meadows provided some lovely period and well-thought out choreography, and the whole was directed by Howard G Raw, who is absolutely no stranger to Musicals and directing.

Yes, Singin' In The Rain features songs such as 'Fit As A Fiddle', 'Make 'Em Laugh', 'You Are My Lucky Star', but of course, such is the power of cinema, the show sinks or swims on really only one song and one sequence. If you have never seen Gene Kelly perform it on screen, you will surely have seen one of the many parodies or affectionate remakes, so iconic is this scene that not performing it well would be the downfall of the success of the whole show. Of course I am speaking of the 'Singin' In The Rain' sequence itself. The lamppost was there, the rain was there, and our star Don Lockwood was there; and yes, he delivered and yes, the curtain to act 1 closed to huge applause.

Peter J Rigney was in fine form as Lockwood. A great on-stage presence, a pleasing to watch actor and his singing and dancing a joy. Lina Lamont was played this evening very intelligently by Alison Ruck. This part could easily descend into caricature territory, or simply be a mono-dimensional bimbette in the style of Audrey in 'Little Shop Of Horrors'; but Ruck played a rounded and nuanced part with sincerity, and this worked very much in her and the show's favour. I loved her interpretation of 'What's Wrong With Me' [even if the mirror was placed in a poor position]. Alexandra Seven gave a solid and correctly un-starry, down-to-earth performance of Kathy Seldon, and comedy was provided for by Lamont's erstwhile double-act partner turned pianist Cosmo, played here with glee by Jason Manford look-a-like Adam Garnett.

I think perhaps because this was the first night the whole lacked pace and there were many too-long gaps where either the cast ad-libbed or we were kept waiting too long; and certainly the chorus and ensemble parts didn't really have any motivation or enthusiasm in their entrances and exits. Lighting cues were often late, and the show was late starting at both the beginning and after the interval. But hopefully these will pick up and get swifter as the show is performed more.

Given time for the company to settle-in to both their roles and the staging and technical aspects of this demanding show, this will be a hugely enjoyable and extremely proficient production which will indeed 'make 'em laugh'.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 6/6/18

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