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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
at Chichester Festival Theatre

WHAT A GLORIOUS FEELING
By CLIVE HIRSCHHORN

  Scarlett Strallen, Daniel Crossley and Adam Cooper/ Ph: Manuel Harlan

For the second time this year, audiences are being asked to pay good money to see a carbon-copy of a classic MGM musical. The first was Andrew Lloyd Webber's under-cast staging of The Wizard of Oz, and the second is the Chichester Festival's current adaptation of Singin' in the Rain, arguably the greatest screen musical ever made.
 
As it is impossible to improve on perfection, even attempting to approximate the original is an act of supreme folly – yet Jonathan Church's lively approach to the task does, I'll admit, have its moments, which cannot be said for the three other productions of this show I've seen.
 
It's a given, of course, that there can be no comparable substitutes for Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, the two male leads in the famous 1952 original, and so it proves with Adam Cooper and Daniel Crossley as silent-movie hearth-throb Don Lockwood and his sidekick Cosmo Brown. Cooper, more a dancer than a singer, moves with a certain grace but lacks Kelly's charm, panache and charisma; while Crossley, an adequate hoofer, cannot approach O'Connor's jaw-dropping acrobatics or comic timing.
 
Which leaves the delightful Scarlett Strallen as ingenue Kathy Selden, the struggling young actress who steals Don's heart much to the chagrin of his bitchy leading lady, Lina Lamont (Katherine Kingsley). On this occasion it is the distaff side who come closest to what the show's creators – Betty Comden and Adolph Green (book) and Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown (lyrics and music) – intended. Strallen has the sweetness and innocence of the young Debbie Reynolds – and a pretty good singing voice, too – while Kingsley, sporting a gratingly shrill Brooklyn accent, isn't too far from Jean Hagan's memorable original. One little point, though. In one of Lina's funniest, most characteristic lines, "All our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'," Kingsley substitutes "hasn't " for "ain't." It's a dumb decision and kills the line stone dead.
 
Despite the sheer redundancy of the undertaking, there are some enjoyable positives due mainly to Andrew Wight's inventive choreography.
 
The four standout routines are "Moses Supposes," in which Don and Cosmo are joined by a diction coach (David Lucas) in an invigorating tap routine; "You Were Meant for Me," a seductive love duet between Don and Kathy set against a romantic backdrop on a studio sound stage; the rousing "Good Morning;" and best of all, the famous title number, gleefully sung and danced by Cooper, who willfully drenches audiences in the first three rows with his abandoned splashing.
 
The show ends on a high with the entire cast joyfully reprising the number and guaranteeing that the soaking experienced by the audience wasn't just the prices they paid for their tickets.
 
Special credit must also go to Ian William Galloway, whose several video sequences contribute immeasurably to the overall mood and atmosphere of the show, qualities missing, alas, from a lethally dreary all-purpose set by Simon Higlett, who's severely hampered here by the lack of a stage revolve or the theater's inability to fly scenery.
 
Robert Scott's musical arrangements and direction are appropriately infectious, but a rather feeble interpolation for Lina (a song called "What's Wrong with Me?") is a mistake. 
 
Though I remain firm in my resolve that slavishly adapting classic musicals (with the exception of 42nd Street) for to the stage is a pointless e

 


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