SINGIN' IN THE RAIN - NOVEMBER 2018
Director - Suzanne Hall
Musical Director - Kathy Rockhill
Vocal Repetiteur - Katie Hickson
By Arthur Freed and Nacho Herb Brown
The Theatre Royal, Winchester 7th - 10th November 2018
Don Lockwood - Chris Horn
Cosmo - Wesley Buckeridge
Kathy Seldon - Sarah Mulclare
Lina Lamont - Katie Hickson
RF Simpson - Peter Barber
Dora Bailey - Olivia Conroy
Miss Dinsmore (vocal coach) - Marina Humphrey
Male Vocal Coach - Tom Harrison
Roscoe Dexter - Simon Meanwell-Ralph
Roz (Lockwood and Lamont’s agent) - Claire Kerry
Zelda Zanders - Gill Cooper
On screen Villain - Iain Steel
Young Don - Samuel Rodd
Young Cosmo - Peter Lucas
Ensemble: Jan Baerselman, Talia Burrell, Shannon Cronin, Zoe Croune, Alexandra Grieve, Leah Hanmore, Dee Mairs, Sally Male, Anne McDonald, Nicky Moore, Lorraine Morgan, Gina Thorley, Charlotte Upfold, Isabel Wylde
Stephen Gleed, Martin Humphrey, Hamish McDonald, Alan Morgan, Charles Quinn
Citizen's Advice - Winchester
Awards and Nominations
Winner of NODA South East award - Best Traditional Musical
“Never work with children or animals”, they say. No mention of pouring water on stage, then.
If you go to see the stage version of ‘Singing in the Rain’ what you really want to know from the outset is how they will tackle THAT scene, where Don Lockwood (played by Gene Kelly in the landmark 1952 film) skips up and down the pavement, “dancing…and singing in the rain”, oblivious to the conditions and as happy as Larry that he’s got his girl, Kathy Seldon.
Apparently that scene in the film took two to three days to shoot and Kelly was soaked through for hours whilst nursing a fever into the bargain. So you have to sympathise with anyone attempting to recreate it at all, let alone on stage in front of an audience just waiting for something to go wrong.
The end result on celluloid, of course, is now legendary and has set the bar for anyone following in those soggy footprints. It is true to say that both Gene Kelly’s shoes, and those of Tommy Steele’s 30 years later at the London Palladium, apart from being very wet, are big ones to fill.
So full marks to Chris Horn of WMOS for not just filling those but tap dancing, light o’ foot, whilst singing and acting his socks off throughout an exciting and charming version of ‘Singing in the Rain’ this week at the Theatre Royal Winchester, home of many a WMOS production in recent years.
Chris’s effortless American accent never falters and neither do those of his co-stars: Sarah Mulcare as our heroin Kathy, whose singing voice ranges from passionately melodic to powerfully vocal, does it all with an authentic sounding US twang.
Likewise Cosmo Brown (Wesley Buckeridge) bubbles over with Hollywood enthusiasm and energetic stage presence. Then there is Lina Lamont, silent movies starlet with the less than dulcet voice that doesn’t bode well for the ‘talkies’, portrayed beautifully by Katie Hickson. She is especially impressive when belting out the song “What’s Wrong With Me?” in a wonderfully screechy off-key voice.
The plot is not complicated – successful 20s film studio scoffs at Warner Bros’ new talking movie, claiming it will be no more than a passing fad. They complacently have their silent stars in Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont and need no more than to churn out more of the same genre.
Of course, the passing fad turns out to be the tipping point of a technological revolution in film-making and everyone soon realises that, whilst Don can adapt to speaking and singing on film, Lina cannot.
Enter the love of Don’s life, ambitious Kathy with the lovely voice, who provides the ‘voice’ for Lina as her vocal double. A nice touch is the plot to publicly embarrass Lina for the glamorous fluff she is by raising the curtain to reveal to Lina’s fans the real ‘voice’ behind her.
What is complex, however, is everything else to do with the show. In many ways, this is a hugely ambitious production for any theatre company but for a relatively small provincial, non-professional group (I hate the connotation of the word amateur), it is staggering.
The staging, lighting, costumes and set design are many and complex, not to mention the staging of the title scene (how DID they do that rain sequence?).
The budget for the costumes alone must have been generous to say the least. I had to keep pinching myself that I was not watching a big West End production or a national touring company with a fleet of pantechnicons parked up outside.
The level of professionalism shown by director/choreographer Suzanne Hall and her team is awesome. The whole ensemble of cast, dancers, singers, backstage crew and supporters come together to produce a really vibrant, mesmerising stage musical of Hollywood proportions. There is additional black and white film work (very impressive) to demonstrate the ‘film within the story’, there is comedy and the pace, on the whole, is excellent.
And the music? Well, justice is certainly done to those old favourites like ‘Good Morning’, ‘You were meant for me’ and – of course – ‘Singing in the Rain’ by one extremely impressive pianist and musical director, Katherine Rockhill who trained at The Royal Academy of Music, no less, and has a string of professional credits to her name as an accompanist of some repute.
A show of this scale would normally boast an orchestra in the pit, not a solo pianist, so it is all the more incredible that the music throughout is provided by one instrument and one player.
Suzanne Hall says “As a company we have not tried to recreate the film…but we have celebrated the essence of it”. Well, they may not have recreated the film but within the confines of a relatively small stage I really don’t think they could have bettered their attempt to recreate the big stage musical version.
Despite one or two very minor technical hitches (ironically to do with sound) it would be picky of any critic to find fault with this production. Suzanne and WMOS should be very proud of their latest performances. ‘Singing in the Rain’ runs until Saturday 10th and there is a matinée performance on Saturday. If there are still some tickets available, I recommend you grab them quickly.
So what’s next up for them? ‘Made in Dagenham – the musical’, 22-25 May next year, that’s what – back at the Theatre Royal Winchester. I look forward to seeing more of this talented company.
Scene One Plus
Made in 1952, this masterpiece of the classical Hollywood musical genre was voted fifth in the American Film Institute’s top 100 greatest films of all time and it’s not hard to see why it has endeared itself to generations of film and music lovers ever since, with its comedy, its variety of tunes, its range of characters and its opportunity for big chorus numbers.
Set in Hollywood in the late 1920s, the film industry is on the brink of upheaval with the arrival of the very first talking picture, ‘The Jazz Singer’. Eager to emulate that film’s success, Monumental Pictures’ studio head R.F.Simpson decides to convert his current picture into a talkie, the only trouble being that his leading lady, Lina Lamont, has the most abrasive New York accent. Neither can she sing, so the studio’s leading man, Don Lockwood, arranges for her to be dubbed (much to her disgust) by up-and-coming actress Kathy Seldon.
Lamont, naturally enough, pulls rank on Kathy, to ensure that she doesn’t get the credit she deserves, whereupon Lockwood, together with his friend Cosmo Brown, finally exposes Lamont’s sham, but not before he has fallen in love with Kathy and she with him.
The original film, starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, has long-since achieved iconic status, excerpts being used in the 1971 film ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and a 2005 VW Golf commercial; but it is almost without doubt that the majority of the viewing public will know it best for Morecambe and Wise’s loving pastiche of the title song in their 1976 Christmas TV special.
WM&OS clearly have a good range of talent at their disposal; Chris Horn was an amiable, though rather subdued Don Lockwood, with a pleasant singing voice, though at times the film star’s leading-man charisma seemed just a bit below the surface. Sarah Mulcare was a pert and star-struck Kathy Seldon, and her duets with Lockwood were warmly received, particularly ‘You Were Meant For Me’ and ‘You Stepped Out of a Dream’. (Note to producer: it would have been nice to have the songs listed in the programme).
Wesley Buckeridge was a likeable, clownish Cosmo, and Simon Meanwell-Ralph (as Roscoe Dexter) was an over-the-top (though beautifully dressed) film director. Studio boss R.F.Simpson is a typically bluff, though vacillating character and Peter Barber had him off to a tee. But as Lina Lamont, a “shimmering, glowing star in the motion-picture firmament”, Katie Hickson had the best lines and the best laughs and delivered right on cue with her ferocious determination to dominate the film despite her inability to either act or sing. Her solo ‘What’s wrong with me?’ was perhaps the highlight of the evening.
Director/Choreographer Suzanne Hall made the most of her sizeable company in the big production numbers and MD Katherine Rockhill’s piano accompaniment throughout the show perfectly evoked the music of the age.
Singin’ in the Rain runs at the Theatre Royal, Winchester until 10th November 2018
Warmly welcomed by the front of house I was ushered to my seat looking forward to a good evening. The house was all but full and buzzing, a great sight to see. Little did I know the entertainment I was about to have
What a set, absolutely first class and very professional. The wall of water for Singing in the Rain, a complete, and very welcome surprise. It was equally well lit, which enhanced the whole experience, and very well sounded, I could hear every word.
The Choreography was first class too. The cast had obviously been well drilled. They were confident, in time and in step. A real pleasure to watch.
Make no bones about it as spectacular as the set was this was a very good show, the pace didn’t seem to lag at all, sometimes evident with well known shows.
Musically it was just one piano, and although in the very first instance I would have preferred a full orchestra, that very first instance almost immediately disappeared. What a pianist, What an MD.
Chris Hall as Don Lockwood and Sarah Mulcare as Kathy Selden played their parts very well there seemed a real chemistry there, but, I really enjoyed the performance of Wesley Buckeridge as Cosmo. The problem is that the show was so good, on every level that its difficult to pick out individuals, everyone deserves a mention.
Singing in the Rain is a huge favourite of mine (and my daughters go to after a bad day at Uni) and has so many good memories for me, I was worried that this would not live up to my expectations. How wrong was I!
Brilliant, Thank you guys for a fantastic evening.
NODA Regional Representative
This production transported the audience back in time past the 1983 adaptation of the film to 1952 when it was first created.
This show is nothing if not a challenge to the stage crew. They rose and truly outdid themselves with the rain scene. The whole concept of the simple sets using material legs worked very effectively and with the cast moving scenery and drapes it all appeared so effortless. The costumes were spot on with great attention to detail. The ‘Duelling Cavalier’ section was particularly well costumed and exceptionally well filmed. The audience were transported to yet another era..
Kathy Rockhill Musical Director and pianist did a sterling job on the night. From beginning to end she maintained the tone of the show and no-one missed the full sound of an orchestra. The diction from the singers was exemplary.
Wow what a superb evening. That was one of the best performances I have seen this year. I loved the creativity of the production, the use of cast to move scenery, the material legs, the well-judged use of the whole theatre - I could go on. The cast were tremendous with an outstanding principal line-up. The dancing and ensemble numbers were joyous and full of vitality. I am loathed to pick out any individual as the whole performance was of such a high standard, A good principal line up starts with the casting, a good director who creates a balance between principals and chorus, principal and principal so that the overall effect is that of a true story. Congratulations to Suzanne on her vision for the show, congratulations to the stage crew for bringing that vision to fruition – yes, the rain really worked! Congratulations to the very talented cast who seem to be able to turn their hand to anything – sing, act, dance the whole gamut that is theatre.
NODA South-East Councillor