Five-star show bursts with joyous life

SUS-140804-155710001

SUS-140804-155710001

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Singin’ in the Rain

Congress Theatre

Until Saturday, April 19

Review by Kevin Anderson

Up with the umbrellas at the Congress Theatre this week. It is not just raining but utterly cascading with song, dance and laughter, in a fabulous production of five-star West End quality.

Often regarded as the greatest ever film musical, Singin’ in the Rain has delighted audiences for over half a century and is still as fresh as ever.

And this is one of a handful of shows which, on stage, have to be better than good, because they must outshine the original.

Well, this production wins the challenge hands down: it bursts with joyous, exuberant life.

There must be times when the cast would fancy playing the show to an audience newly landed from Mars – without preconceptions and expectations.

How do you create your own character when half of the audience is mouthing the lyrics or the punchlines with you?

But the Congress audience was soon onside, warming to this performance and catching its contagious energy.

Technical challenges abound, especially for a touring production, but they are all met with assurance, on an impressive set which really does look the 1920s Hollywood part.

Several scenes are cleverly side-lit, with standing floods and spots giving an authentic film-set feel, and costumes are lavish, colourful and perfectly in period.

Singly and collectively, the performances are superb.

The opening overture is danced with precision and energy, setting a benchmark of excellence which the talented ensemble reaches in every single number.

The principals all convince.

James Leece admirably reprises the Gene Kelly role and commands the stage.

Amy Ellen Richardson’s Kathy is less innocent ingénue and more sassy heroine, with a gorgeous honeyed singing voice.

Stephane Anelli is the definitive Cosmo with perfect timing and amazing physical elasticity.

Vicky Binns presents a hilariously strident Lena Lamont, while studio mogul RF’s every phrase and gesture is captured by Maxwell Caulfield.

And if you still needed persuading that Singin’ in the Rain merits the transfer from the silver screen, just sit and be mesmerised by a quite breathtaking Broadway Melody – the lavish multi-layered sequence which broke new ground in its time, and which is stunningly re-created here.

At once beautiful and balletic and yet vigorous and creative: technique infused with imagination.

This was the moment when you suddenly knew that stage is even better than celluloid. Singing, dancing, and shimmering in the Rain: this is musical theatre at its most unmissable.