Singin’ in the Rain is the musical equivalent of comfort food. We know what we’re getting but it’s so good we never grow tired of it.
In many ways it is an easy sell – audiences come because they love the 1952 movie. But once the theatre is full, there’s a lifetime of nostalgia waiting to be unleased in the auditorium and expectations are high.
While largely faithful to the original film, this production doesn’t rest on its laurels. Instead, it takes some of the most iconic moments and brings them to life with joyful freshness.
First seen at Chichester Festival in 2011, Jonathan Church’s hit version has literally made a splash everywhere its played since. The multi-talented Adam Cooper takes the lead-role of movie heartthrob, Don Lockwood. What makes his performance work so well, is not just he’s returning to a familiar part he created over a decade ago, but, like Kelly, he dances like a dream. Cooper trained at the Royal Ballet and earlier in his career was a principal dancer with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. He makes the title number gloriously playful, like an overgrown toddler jumping in puddles and delighting at the height of the spray. The scene is a proper Manchester downpour, so if you’ve booked a seat in the first few rows, be warned.
Jenny Gaynor is excellent as despicable diva, Lina Lamont, who lacks any self-awareness and is so ruthless we easily forgive the other characters’ mocking of her accent, which in modern day can feel a little cruel. Even if you’ve seen the silent movie scenes a thousand times, Gaynor still hits the funny bone with laugh-out-loud comic timing, and magically has a way to make the famous can’t stand him line her own.
Ross McLaren brings warmth to Lockwood’s comedy sidekick, Cosmo Brown and delights the audience when he really does run up a wall into a backward somersault during Make ‘Em Laugh. While Charlotte Gooch’s understated performance, as innocent and talented Kathy Selden, works a treat.
If you haven’t seen the film for a while you’ll be struck by just how many memorable tunes are in the score – Fit as a Fiddle, Beautiful Girl, You Were Meant for Me, and Good Morning to name a few. The rain-soaked number is reprised at the end with a stage full of colourful brollies, leaving the audience singin’ and dancing and, for Manchester this week, most probably splashing home happily in the rain.