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Review: Singin’ In The Rain at Sunderland Empire

Maxwell Caulfield and Faye Tozer star in Singin' in the Rain at Sunderland Empire. Lesley Oldfield went along to see the show

****
The cast of Singin' in the Rain
The cast of Singin' in the Rain

As a big fan of the famous 1952 movie and the stars it immortalised, I was more than a little worried about the stage version being a pale imitation.

But there was nothing to fear. Bold and beautiful, charming and funny, the show is up there with the best musicals I’ve seen.

The then-innovative original choreography of Gene Kelly, combining so many different dance styles, has been brought to life by Andrew Wright for this production and is executed by the ensemble with panache.

And it really rains! Sprinklers go on, the stage is flooded, and those at the front of the stalls need their waterproofs.

For those who don’t know the film, the heart of this show is a love story as movie star Don Lockwood falls for a chorus girl, Kathy Selden.

But Don is a silent movie star of the 1920s and the plot centres on Hollywood’s painful transition to the “Talkies”, which left behind real-life legends like Clara Bow and John Gilbert.

Understudy Matthew Malthouse took the role of Don on Press night and may stay in place for the run due to an injury suffered by James Leece.

He seemed at ease with both song and dance, pulling off Gene Kelly’s trick of making the character immensely likeable.

Faye Tozer as Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain
Faye Tozer as Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain
 

And when he has that flooded stage to himself, it is not the special effects which wow but the dancing - as it should. For the idea of dancing in water was inspired: all that splashing summing up Don’s joy at being in love.

This is just one of a number of great set pieces including a bi-plane covered in chorus girls for Beautiful Girls and the glorious tap and slapstick of Moses Supposes.

Amy Ellen Richardson as Kathy, played in the movie by Debbie Reynolds, has a wonderful voice and is a graceful, accomplished hoofer.

But my 14-year-old daughter’s favourite character was Don’s co-star Lina Lamont with a storming performance from Faye Tozer of hit 90s band Steps.

Her strangulated vowels, shrieking, and broad Brooklyn accent combine horribly. And then she sings and it gets worse!

Early on, Faye wins a round of applause simply for an exit and she is clearly having a ball.

Stephane Anelli as Cosmo brings snappy lines and sharp comedic dance moves to the party, particularly in Make ’em Laugh, yet another of the show’s great routines.

And, when the plot is resolved, and at the point where the film ends, I loved the finale where everyone gets the chance to be singin’ and dancin’ in the rain.

As we set off for home the rain began outside and it was suggested we pull over to twirl round lampposts. If it hadn’t been a school night …

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