Singin’ in the Rain

The Rain Reigns in This Show

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

The film version of Singin’ in the Rain came along in the middle of the golden age of movie musicals. It hit the big screen in 1952 and made a star out of 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds who played Kathy Seldon. Also starring were Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood and Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown. It garnered a few awards and was a popular musical comedy. As was the style of the day, song and dance numbers were tossed into the show which were completely unrelated to the plot. While it seemed to work in those days, now it’s a bit jarring and outdated.

So in 1983, the stage version of Singin’ in the Rain premiered in London, England, arriving on Broadway in 1985. It closely follows the old movie and retains some of the outdated numbers that don’t further the plot.

Set in Hollywood in the final days of the silent screen era, Singin’ in the Rain’s lead is the character Don Lockwood, a famous silent film star. His leading lady is Lina Lamont, and while he has no interest in her, they are pushed together for publicity’s sake to promote their many movies. Lina believes the gossip reporters and is sure he’s in love with her. Lockwood’s sidekick is Cosmo Brown, the funny guy. Lockwood falls in love with aspiring actress Kathy Selden and spends half the show tracking her down, while she plays hard to get. Suddenly it is decided to make Lockwood and Lamont’s silent film, currently in production, into a talkie. But Lina has a grating voice (both speaking and singing) that sounds worse than nails on a chalkboard. So Lockwood suggests Kathy Seldon’s voice be dubbed in. You can imagine the jealousy and manipulation that ensues.

The production of Singin’ in the Rain now on stage at Mirvish’s Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto has arrived here from England. An American, Sam Lips plays Don Lockwood, and he is perfect in the role – the smooth singing and great tapping make you believe you’re watching Gene Kelly. Similarly, Charlotte Gooch’s Kathy Seldon is a replica of Debbie Reynolds. She is energetic, sweet and charming.

Unfortunately, Alastair Croswell’s Cosmo Brown isn’t as funny as the great Donald O’Connor. His entire “Make ‘Em Laugh” number doesn’t garner any laughter from the audience. The famous “Moses Supposes” song and tap dance doesn’t have the needed comedic timing.

The longer two-part ballet, while popular in 1952, seem superfluous now and slows the stage show. As mentioned above, it does not further the plot, and throwing in extra song and dance numbers seems outdated today. When you think of Singin’ in the Rain, you think tap dancing. Fortunately, the leads and the cast are all top-notch tappers.

Also troubling is Don Lockwood’s dogged pursuit of Kathy Seldon. She clearly says no, but he keeps tracking her down. His inability to take no for an answer and her playing hard to get is very dated and something that makes us uncomfortable today.

The real star of this production is the rain, or actually, the water which pours from the ceiling and covers the stage. The audience loves Lips singing and dancing while twirling his umbrella and spinning around the lamp post. Cheers go up as he kicks water directly at those in the front row, who are supplied with plastic sheets to hold up for protection.  Then the rain falls again for a big encore number. After the final bows, the cast comes out with shining silver umbrellas lined with bright colours, and splashes their way across the stage in a delightful dance number. There is so much kicking in the puddles that they must all the soaked. Again, the audience loves it.

It left us with food for thought on the trip home – how does the rain pour and the stage drain? Is the water cleaned and recycled, or will Mirvish have a huge water bill? How do the wardrobe workers get those clothes all dried out before the next show?  And how wet does the front row actually get? 

Unfortunately, I think the show is lacking when you care more about the mechanics than the plot and characters.

Singin’ in the Rain continues with eight shows a week at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W., Toronto, Ontario until October 23. Call TicketKing 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.

Photo: Sam Lips and the cast of Singin’ in the Rain, in their very wet final number. Photo by Johan Persson.

Somewhat Related Note:  Have you seen the latest Downton Abbey movie? Money is tight so Lord Grantham and the Crawley family have allowed a film crew to use their glorious castle to make a silent movie. But, like Singin’ in the Rain, talkies have suddenly become popular. The leading lady’s voice is all wrong, so Lady Mary is conscripted to read the lines, which will be synchronized with the actress’s mouth. A borrowed plot line?

Singin’ in the Rain
Based on the classic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film
Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Directed by Jonathan Church
Choreographed by Andrew Wright
Musical Direction by Robert Scott
Performed by Sam Lips, Charlotte Gooch, Alastair Crosswell, Faye Tozer, Michael Brandon,
et al.
Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto
September 23 to October 23, 2022
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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