Ian Waller enjoys a new visit to one of the great Hollywood musicals
As the rain streamed down onto the stage at the gorgeous old Bristol Hippodrome, and leading man Sam Lips indulged himself in one of the most famous of all musical song and dance routines, you could also feel the joy that spread across the sold-out audience. Singin’ In The Rain is in town, a new production of an old classic that is full of songs, dancing and just a feelgood persona that makes you want to jump in puddles, swirl an umbrella around your head and join in the fun.
Most of us will, of course, know Singin’ In The Rain from the wonderful 1952 film with the great Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. For this current stage tour, those leading roles are taken by Sam Lips as Don Lockwood, Charlotte Gooch at Kathy Sheldon and Kevin Clifton of Strictly Come Dancing fame as Cosmo Brown.
The plot takes us back to the final days of silent films, with superstars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont’s position as the darlings of the silver screen put under threat by the arrival of some new fangled novelty that is talking films. Suddenly their latest silent romance needs to be updated into a musical extravaganza, alongside the challenge of new love, gossip column journalism and broken friendships.
The result is old-school charming, with plenty of fun, great tunes and, of course, a very happy ending.
Sam Lips does a great job stepping into the tap shoes of Gene Kelly, surely one of the very best old Hollywood dancers. Lips has the style, poise and charm of his Hollywood heartthrob character down to perfection, all beaming smiles and wonderful moves, showcased to perfection in the famous Singin’ In The Rain performance that I still can’t watch without thinking of the hilarious comedic version by Morecombe and Wise! Like Mr Kelly, there’s a wonderfully balletic core to Sam’s dancing, alongside the great ability to move from style to style, including impressive leading impressive ensemble pieces and taking his part in old school tap routines.
Alongside Sam Lips, Charlotte Gooch as Kathy Seldon and Kevin Clifton as Cosmo Brown make a perfect threesome, with some of the best routines happening when the three take the stage together. There’s a real joyful repartee between them that brings the stage to life and has the audience smiling at entertainment from a simpler age. The loudest applause was generally saved for TV favourite Kevin Clifton, with the energy he brings to his performances – no more so than during the exhausting Make ‘Em Laugh routine – being truly astounding.
Where the production lost a little of its pizzazz was with some slightly untidy choreography in some of the ensemble pieces, where the intricate movements and set pieces somehow seemed restricted and lacking polish. Perhaps this is due to the inevitable restrictions of a theatre stage, but it took just a little of the gloss away from the undeniable skills of the performers.
Still, Singin’ In The Rain was overall a joy and it was great to see so many younger audience members clearly loving the fun alongside their parents and grandparents. Just one word of warning – if you’re sitting in the front few rows, there is a good chance that you might get a little damp… after all, you can’t have rain inside a theatre without a few puddles…
Singin’ In The Rain is playing at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 21 May. For more information and to buy tickets, click here