It’s not often that a cynical old hack like me gets carried away but there really are not enough superlatives in the dictionary to describe the Jonathan Church’s touring production of Singin’ In The Rain which opened at Milton Keynes Theatre last night.
The company are uniformly better than the original cast which opened the show at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2011 and even top the West End production.
These folk set the bar so high that other musicals should book tickets to come and learn about how to stage the ultimate high end show. This is about as good as it gets.
You know the story. You must have seen the 1952 film starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds.
You almost certainly know the tunes and, like me, if you see the production (running at MKT until July 12 then touring), you’ll be singing them to yourself for weeks after.
It’s not just the eponymous song of the title but all the others that make up the whole – All I Do, the sublime Make Em Laugh, You Are My Lucky Star, You Were Meant For Me, Good Mornin’..and on it goes.
Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown’s songs are arguably the greatest score ever written for the best musical ever created (and written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green) – and played by the wonderful SITR band.
Am I gushing too much? Wait until I start on the cast. Vicky Binns has shed a ton of weight since her early appearances in Coronation Street as Molly Dobbs.
Here she is petite and the ultimate platinum blonde who is not so stupid as she looks (and sounds).
Binns plays silent film star Lina Lamont with an accent that actually makes it preferable to listen to nails being scraped down a blackboard.
SITR is set in 1927 and the dawn of talkies. The newly established film industry is about to undergo a revolution with the advent of Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer.
But Monumental Pictures, headed by a very handsome RF Simpson (Max Caulfield doing his best Clark Gable impersonation – love the ‘tache) has a problem.
Their leading lady, Lina, sounds godawful. Her on-screen partner, the dashing Don Lockwood (the charismatic James Leece – every inch a matinee idol) passes muster but what can they do about Lina?
Binns is a revelation as a comic, screeching herself almost hoarse and enjoying herself immensely as the bombshell.
The answer, of course, is to dub her and Don knows just the person – the real love of his life Kathy Selden.
Leece, Amy Ellen Richardson as Selden and the
company clown Stephane Anelli (who I last saw in the “Take That” musical Never Forget) as Cosmo Brown are a force to be reckoned with.
They deliver outstanding performances in the leads. Bags of personality, working effortlessly together and coming up with a five-star collective turn that sets a benchmark in excellence.
Anelli has the hardest part as Cosmo (the Donald O’Connor role). Relegated to sidekick as his best mate, Lockwood, is styled for stardom, the affable Cosmo is left to play the court jester and does so without any resentment.
Make ‘Em Laugh is a real showstopper in Act One and showcases Anelli’s physical, dance and vocal skills not to mention star personality.
Brown is a great character part and the effervescent Anelli is right at home.
All three are dynamite tap dancers and give their all throughout the 140-minute show.
Leece is an elegant dancer with a ballet background and it shows. He’s stylish and eminently watchable – in the big Act One finale amid all that sloshing rain and in the fantasy Act 2 sequence, Broadway Ballet.
This is a faultless, sensational, magnificent musical produced by a talented ensemble.
For more tour dates go to www.singinintherain.co.uk