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Singin' In The Rain/Liverpool Empire

Dave Sedgwick revels in a sumptuous soaking from a Hollywood classic

Written by . Published on April 24th 2014.


Singin' In The Rain/Liverpool Empire
 

THE moment the curtains raised to reveal an imposing, bare-bricked Gothic backdrop at last night’s opening of Singin’ in the Rain, a statement of intent had been made. The West End is big, it’s bold and it’s bright.

Expectations hadn’t just been raised rather they had just soared through the roof of Liverpool’s Empire theatre. And that was just for starters…

It seems hard to believe in our twittering universe that once upon a time actions spoke louder than words. The stars of the silent screen were seen but never heard, so when a new-fangled fad – the talkies – arrived in Tinseltown, things were ain’t ever gonna be the same again.

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The plot’s a good ‘un then, a vehicle which allows a glimpse into the golden age of glamour - a frenetic cocktail of chorus girls n’ clapperboards.

Singin’ in the Rain is pure escapism. It matters not a jot whether you remember Kelly and Reynolds or indeed Morecambe and Wise for that matter. And though set very much in the twenties, Singin’ in the Rain as a concept is truly timeless, essentially a boy-meets-girl saga played out on a song and dance canvas oozing with luxury. And judging by the spread of children, teens and adults, it’s ageless too.

Performances are, as might be expected, bold yet graceful. James Leece as Don Lockwood plays the Gene Kelly role with aplomb. On a hot and humid Empire evening those in the circle could only look on in envy as he splashed the front rows during the show’s elegant signature song. And Amy Ellen Richardson is just too darned good for words as Kathy Selden.

Vicky Binns As Lina Lamont In Singin' In The Rain - Photo Credit Manuel HarlanVicky Binns As Lina LamontThere’s a fair amount of kookiness too, mainly in the forms of Cosmo (Stephane Anelli) and Lina (Vicky Binns). Anelli in particularly gives a virtuoso performance belting out numbers, gliding around the set and gobbling up the laughs with an adroit sense of comic timing. The boy done good.

Even on the rare occasions when the script doesn’t quite hit the mark, Anelli and Binns are waiting in the wings. And former star of US soap ‘The Colbys’ Maxwell Caulfield adds a touch of genuine Hollywood class archly cast as movie mogul FJ Simpson.

And that set – a chameleonic construction which magically morphs from industrial backdrop to theatrical backstage before finally becoming a dazzling kaleidoscope for the Broadway ballet sequence. Mmm…it’s the stuff of fairy tales. The orchestra too are accommodated and it’s all so very, very seamless. Oh and did I mention the biplane…?

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Lest we should forget, this show is a musical: Make ‘em Laugh just does that set against a hi-energy planks and bucket routine that is pure slapstick. ‘Good Morning’ in particularly is a joyous affair delivered with bucket loads of panache by the leading trio of Leece, Anelli and Richardson who even manage to make kookiness cool.

There’s a plethora of other goodies to lap up. The cine film excerpts add a touch of movie magic to the show. Look out for the Dancing Cavalier sequence screened for the movie moguls - it’s enormous fun, full of movie gaffes galore as the golden couple struggle to cope with that new invention called the microphone. Meanwhile veterans Jacqueline Clarke and Paul Grunert deliver wonderfully subtle supporting performances.

Two hours disappear just like that. It’s one of those shows. Inevitably, perhaps, the pace drops a little after the interval during the ballet showstopper sequence, Gotta Dance! but picks up thereafter.

Singin’ in the Rain is smoother than velvet and even more irresistible than chocolate. Just indulge.

8/10

Until Saturday 3rd May

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Peter Coyle

i wish i had been there…it sounds like something joyous and anarchic...the way the article is…

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Anonymous

Couldn't agree more. This is a super piece. Ken would be proud that not a penny of public money was…

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Reader Xxx

The review was indeed brilliant - congratulations Angie. The show must have been very special -…

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Claudia Boulton

Thanks Angie for your brilliant piece, so glad you wrote it! Now i know what was going on! Being in…

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