by Lynn on September 30, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto, Ont. Plays until Oct. 23, 2022

Based on the classic Metro-Goldwin-Mayer film of the same name.

Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed

Directed by Jonathan Church

Musical Supervisor and Director, Robert Scott

Set and costumes by Simon Higlett

 Choreography by Andrew Wright

Lighting by Tim Mitchell

Sound by Gareth Owen

Video designer, Ian William Galloway

Cast: Michael Brandon

Alastair Crosswell

Charlotte Gooch

Dam Lips

Faye Tozer

And a large chorus of very talented dancers and singers.

“Singin’ In The Rain is joyous, buoyant and occasionally moist. The ‘moist’ fun you will have with or without an umbrella.”

The Story. It’s Hollywood, 1927 and silent pictures are going strong. The king and queen of romantic silent movies are Don Lockwood and his acting partner Lina Lamont. Hollywood being Hollywood, there were rumours that Don and Lina were a couple off screen and were in fact going to get married. Times haven’t changed since then; the rumours just swirl faster these days. In fact, Don couldn’t stand Lina and she was so self-absorbed that she couldn’t tell and actually believed the rumours, that they would marry.

There was the inkling that ‘talking films’ were on the horizon. Don was ok—he had a great speaking (and singing) voice but Lina would be a concern. She had a voice and way of speaking that was best suited to silent films: grating, harsh, squeaky and vulgar sounding.

Don was a movie star with a huge fan base. He could hardly walk down the street, but did do that one night on his way to a party. He was mobbed and pretended he was someone else and commandeered an innocent woman sitting on a bench as his ‘girlfriend’. The mob left. The innocent woman was Kathy Selden, a stage actress. She said she rarely went to films because they were all the same. Not a good meeting. She later appeared at the party, jumping out of a cake. She was not keen on Don. She had an unfortunate meeting with Lina and the result was that Kathy was fired. Don could not forget her. He searched for her and finally found her and got her into the movies when he realized she could sing, dance, act and had a voice that was appealing—right for the ‘talkies’. But Lina found out and there were difficulties as usual.

The Production. Let’s deal with the elephants in the room, shall we? The film Singin’ In The Rain was released in 1952 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It starred Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown (Don’s good friend and musical accompanist) and Debby Reynolds as Kathy Selden. The film was not a smashing success initially. It just grew into cult status over time. The stage musical of Singin’ In The Rain opened on Broadway in 1985, based on the Betty Comden/Adolph Green screenplay.

In the Toronto production (on tour here until Oct. 23) Don Lockwood is played by Sam Lips, Alastair Crosswell plays Cosmo Brown and Charlotte Gooch plays Kathy Selden. Please don’t look for comparisons to the original movie stars in the film—that’s unfair to these gifted actors. They are giving their own performances and they are dandy. Sam Lips as Don Lockwood has an easy confidence, a gracious, winning style, and exudes the joy of singing this music, dancing those dances and being in the skin of that character. Charlotte Gooch as Kathy Selden has a lovely skittishness when she first meets Don. She does not fall for his ‘movie star charm’. But her frostiness towards him soon dissolves when they get to know each other and she sees his decency. Alastair Crosswell as Cosmo Brown is the best friend everybody wants in their life. He is supportive, always good natured, energetic in his dancing and always ensuring his friends get the best chance they can. His performance of “Make ‘Em Laugh” alone is worth the price of admission. Kudos to choreographer Andrew Wright. Who do you get to play a character like Lina Lamont, who can’t sing dance or act? You get a woman who can do all three with great skill like Faye Tozer. Her sense of humour in illuminating the witlessness of Lina is wonderful.

Much has been made about the “Singin’ In The Rain” number. People in the first few rows are given plastic ‘rain coverings’ to protect them from the splashing water that will come their way. One gentleman in the front row gleefully showed his friends at the back, the rain covering and happily wore it when he sat down, in anticipation of that number.

That number is wonderfully choreographed by Andrew Wright as is the whole show. The number is buoyant, lively, joy-filled and wet. Don Lockwood has just kissed Kathy Selden good night. He’s blissfully happy. But it’s going to rain and he just happens to see a man selling umbrellas up stage and so begins one of the most iconic scenes in all cinema, transplanted to the stage. The water pours down from spigots in the flies. Don opens his umbrella and begins singing the wonderful song. The stage fills with water. Don kicks the water all over the place, including into the first few rows. He jumps in puddles. Water sprays. He is smiling and care-free. He holds out the umbrella. He gets drenched. He doesn’t care. And I guess we don’t either because it’s such a wonderful song and terrific piece of choreography—and Sam Lips does it so beautifully. Singin’ In The Rain is a terrific musical. Appreciate it in context with the film, but most important, on its own.

Comment. Theatre like this is heart-swelling. See Singin’ In The Rain. Leave the umbrella at home.

Mirvish Productions presents the Chichester Festival Theatre and Stage Entertainment Production:

Runs until: Oct. 23, 2022.

Running Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes (1 intermission)

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