Now that’s how to make a splash! GEORGINA BROWN reviews Singin’ In The Rain 


Singin’ In The Rain

Sadler’s Wells

Verdict: A storming success!

Rating:

Outside: a disappointing, unseasonably nippy August. Inside Sadler’s Wells theatre: the forecast was bang on for a razzle-dazzle revival of Singin’ In The Rain.

Adam Cooper stars in the Gene Kelly role of silent movie matinee star Don Lockwood making an almighty splash as the man so head-over-heels in love that he is spinning his umbrella around a lamppost and walking on sunshine rather than ankle-deep in water, which he is gleefully kicking over the first few rows of the stalls.

Drenched to their skin, the folks in those seats squealed and laughed — with no complaints.

And it happens all over again in the fabulous finale, when the entire cast twizzles silver brollies, each with a brightly coloured lining, and gaily tap-dances up a storm, not just revelling in Andrew Wright’s complicated choreography, but making it look effortless.

Outside: a disappointing, unseasonably nippy August. Inside Sadler's Wells theatre: the forecast was bang on for a razzle-dazzle revival of Singin' In The Rain

Outside: a disappointing, unseasonably nippy August. Inside Sadler’s Wells theatre: the forecast was bang on for a razzle-dazzle revival of Singin’ In The Rain

Adam Cooper (pictured) stars in the Gene Kelly role of silent movie matinee star Don Lockwood making an almighty splash

Adam Cooper (pictured) stars in the Gene Kelly role of silent movie matinee star Don Lockwood making an almighty splash

This is one of those slick, polished productions which sends you sailing out of the theatre with a spring in your step, feeling that all is well with the world — whatever the weather.

The real triumph of Jonathan Church’s production is that he makes it so much more than its famous title song, ‘Do-de-do-doo-do-de . . .’.

In a sense, it’s one of the first jukebox musicals in which clever old writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green have expertly linked the best from Arthur Freed’s and Nacio Herb Brown’s musical back catalogue, to tell the story of the love affair between silent movie star, Don, and wannabe classical actress, Kathy. It’s love at first sight when he spots her jumping out of a cake in her scanties. Set in Hollywood in 1927, it also charts the transition from silent movies to talkies.

Unfortunately, Don’s co-star Lina Lamont (a funny, feisty Faye Tozer from the pop band Steps) looks the part but has the voice of a cat being strangled and is so dumb she thinks the Gettysburg Address is where somebody lives.

So Kathy (a sweet, very graceful Charlotte Gooch) steps in to dub Lina’s coarse squawking (‘Dignity, my a***!’) and makes her sound as lovely as she looks. The re-dubbed video footage is so remarkable, one cannot believe one’s ears.

Thanks to Freed and Brown’s string of musical pearls, the hits keep coming. Fit As A Fiddle, the tongue-twisting Moses Supposes and Make ‘Em Laugh are delicious excuses for vintage vaudeville capers for Don and his sidekick Cosmo Brown (the brilliantly comedic Chaplinesque Kevin Clifton from Strictly).

This is one of those slick, polished productions which sends you sailing out of the theatre with a spring in your step, feeling that all is well with the world — whatever the weather

This is one of those slick, polished productions which sends you sailing out of the theatre with a spring in your step, feeling that all is well with the world — whatever the weather

Don’s romantic chat-up number, You Stepped Out Of A Dream, is gloriously superseded by You Were Meant For Me, in which Cooper first conjures up a Hollywood rainbow sunset and has Kathy rapturously floating in his arms.

Their Good Morning has a wholesome freshness, in sharp contrast with the steamy, dream sequence Broadway Melody, which finishes up in a basement where Harriet Samuel-Grey’s vampy temptress might challenge one more corruptible than Cooper’s super-duper decent Don.

A tiny carp: the dancing has infinitely more brio than the singing, but hey, ‘Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face.’ Just pack a mac. 

A tiny carp: the dancing has infinitely more brio than the singing, but hey, 'Come on with the rain, I've a smile on my face.' Just pack a mac

A tiny carp: the dancing has infinitely more brio than the singing, but hey, ‘Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face.’ Just pack a mac

Three cheers for a hat-trick of hilarious turns… writes Tully Potter

Gilbert & Sullivan Festival  

Buxton Opera House

Verdict: Bravo, Mr Butteriss! 

Rating:

Deprived of their favourite fare for a year, Gilbert & Sullivan enthusiasts have never had it so good. What, never? Well . . . hardly ever, especially as the effervescent Simon Butteriss is back in three of his best roles.

He is a sharper-edged First Sea Lord than we often hear in HMS Pinafore, which is strongly cast with a memorable Captain (Steven Page — beautiful diction!), a lyrical Ralph (David Menezes), a bell-like Josephine (Caroline Kennedy) and a motherly Buttercup (Mae Heydorn).

The added responsibility of directing falls to Butteriss in The Mikado and Patience, where he was asked to separate the chorus off — his solution, to place them behind a decorated scrim, works well. He was also requested to un-Japanese the characters in The Mikado, which for me removes a whole layer of comedy. No matter — the result is so hilarious that critical faculties are blunted.

Deprived of their favourite fare for a year, Gilbert & Sullivan enthusiasts have never had it so good. What, never? Well . . . hardly ever, especially as the effervescent Simon Butteriss (pictured) is back in three of his best roles

Deprived of their favourite fare for a year, Gilbert & Sullivan enthusiasts have never had it so good. What, never? Well . . . hardly ever, especially as the effervescent Simon Butteriss (pictured) is back in three of his best roles

Butteriss’s boyish Ko-Ko reveals a ‘little list’ skewering all the current public figures that Gilbert himself would target. Pish-Tush (Matthew Kellett) has more to do than usual, including sweeping the stage, and the whole thing has a rather colonial look.

Gaynor Keeble’s Victorian grand dame of a Katisha is truly awe-inspiring, Matthew Siveter’s Pooh-Bah is lordliness itself, Emily Vine is a touching Yum-Yum, Catrine Kirkman a characterful Pitti-Sing, Bruce Graham a sonorous Mikado. David Horton as Nanki-Poo takes a while to warm up to his best.

Several of these singers return in Patience, where Butteriss’s swooningly Swinburne-like Bunthorne is perfumed perfection and some Pre-Raphaelite spice flavours the comedy nicely. 

Pictured: The cast of HMS Pinafore

Pictured: The cast of HMS Pinafore

Vine gets the innocence of the title character just right and Siveter is a nimble-footed, fine-toned rival poet.

Keeble’s gloriously over-the-top Lady Jane is joined by the equally lovesick Kirkman, Kate Lowe and Phoebe Smith, with the Dragoon Guards well officered by Graham as the Colonel, Stephen Godward as the Major and Peter Van Hulle as the Duke. In both his productions, Butteriss gets everyone moving delightfully.

James Hendry conducts a Covid-reduced orchestra (one-to-a-part strings) with brio, so that ensembles sparkle; but serious moments are not short-changed.

The festival moves on to Harrogate from Sunday and the productions are now being streamed on gsopera.tv. 

The Tragic Miller’s Tale… reviewed by Melanie McDonaugh

Luisa Miller 

Glyndebourne

Verdict: Pared down production but ravishing music 

Rating:

Luisa Miller, one of Verdi’s second-rank operas, is set in a Tyrolean village, complete with tyrannical count. Cue, you think, for a Sound Of Music backdrop. But this is Christof Loy’s production, and Mr Minimalism doesn’t do picturesque. Your first intimation that this isn’t going to be a fun-filled evening is the bare white set with the receding walls.

The girls, who spend an inordinate amount of time pressed against those walls, are in 1990s Prada monochrome.

The austere aesthetic matches the mood of the opera, which Verdi composed for the Naples opera house after the savage suppression of the revolt of 1848. As the librettist pointed out, people weren’t in the mood for happy endings — and that’s what they didn’t get.

The austere aesthetic of this staging of Luisa Miller matches the mood of the opera, which Verdi composed for the Naples opera house after the savage suppression of the revolt of 1848

The austere aesthetic of this staging of Luisa Miller matches the mood of the opera, which Verdi composed for the Naples opera house after the savage suppression of the revolt of 1848

Luisa Miller is based on a piece about doomed young love by Schiller, who wrote it with Romeo And Juliet in mind. So if you’re thinking coercive paternal control, insanely impulsive young lovers and a trigger happy approach to suicide, well done you.

The case for minimalism is that it doesn’t distract from the music. The orchestra — a slimmed down London Philharmonic — is pared down on account of Covid, but, my goodness, it’s brilliant. With smaller numbers, the clarity of Enrique Mazzola’s musical direction is even more pronounced. Whatever there is of a melodic line got its due, and then some.

The cast is pretty wonderful, too. The two tyrannical fathers are outstanding: Evgeny Stavinsky as the stinker Count Walter is a fabulously resonant bass — though he’d be even better if he moved occasionally — while Luisa’s father, Vladislav Sulimsky, reminds us that the other great theme here is father-daughter love.

Nadezhda Karyazina, as the spurned Duchess, is almost too good for spurning (especially in that pink frock and with her thrilling lower register). And Mané Galoyan, as Luisa, is heartbreaking. As for the baddie, with the giveaway name of Wurm, Krzysztof Bączyk was so wormlike, he practically got booed at the final curtain. 

The case for minimalism is that it doesn't distract from the music. The orchestra — a slimmed down London Philharmonic — is pared down on account of Covid, but, my goodness, it's brilliant. With smaller numbers, the clarity of Enrique Mazzola's musical direction is even more pronounced. Whatever there is of a melodic line got its due, and then some

The case for minimalism is that it doesn’t distract from the music. The orchestra — a slimmed down London Philharmonic — is pared down on account of Covid, but, my goodness, it’s brilliant. With smaller numbers, the clarity of Enrique Mazzola’s musical direction is even more pronounced. Whatever there is of a melodic line got its due, and then some

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