The last time Jonathan Church’s dazzling touring production of Singin’ In The Rain soaked the boards at Milton Keynes Theatre (2014) I boldly stated that the show had set the bar so high that it was ‘as good as it gets’.
Now the showstopper is back and even better. Impossible but true.
You would run out of superlatives trying to describe this faultless and stupendous musical that is jam packed with talent from the astonishing footwork of the ensemble to the charisma and artistry of its leads.
It helps that Church, who knows how to put the razzle dazzle into blockbuster musicals, picked one of the best to revive.
The 1952 film of Singin’ In The Rain, which started out as a modest vehicle for its star Gene Kelly, was later voted by critics as one of the greatest movies and one of the top musicals ever made.
With a screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed it featured 15 tunes, each one a classic, plus knock-out dance numbers, choreographed by Kelly.
Church revived the stage version for Chichester Festival Theatre more than a decade ago and it set the benchmark impossibly high thanks to his ability to cast unknown but hugely talented performers, plus a company of back-stage stars ranging from choreographer Andrew Wright to set designer Simon Higlett.
It helps that SITR isn’t a jukebox musical but instead tells the real story of how silent movies from HollywoodLand of the 1920s had to evolve to embrace the advent of talking pictures…oh and, of course, there’s a love story plus lots of comedy.
I defy anyone not to come away from the show singing at least one song and even practising a few tap steps in the puddles outside the theatre.
For the 2022 tour, and for a limited number of shows, Dunstable girl and former Steps singer, Faye Tozer, joins the company as blonde bombshell and silent movie star Lina Lamont, whose strangulated vowels and screechy accent is a sheer delight.
She joins Sam Lips, Charlotte Gooch and Ross McLaren who play leads Don Lockwood, Kathy Seldon and Cosmo Brown.
Who? Who indeed. Their names may not trip off your tongue but they have a wealth of West End experience and are hugely gifted.
Lips oozes charm and stage presence as Lamont’s leading man who falls in love with starlet and aspiring actress Kathy.
His dancing has all the grace and energy of Gene Kelly.
Lips’ versatility takes him effortlessly through everything from the lengthy, balletic, modern dance sequence in Act 2 to performing big production numbers and old school tap with the company – and, of course, the signature piece accompanied by a deluge from water sprinklers.
McLaren has the tough job of taking on Donald O’Connor’s role as Cosmo who is Don’s best friend, the comedy foil and tasked with one of the most memorable moments in the show when, during Make ‘Em Laugh, he runs up a wall and does a back flip.
It’s relief all around when he pulls it off but the actor is so self-assured in this comedy role that you become enchanted by his ebullience.
Gooch is everything you’d expect as Lips’ romantic lead. A beautiful voice, enchanting demeanour and wholesome good looks. No wonder Don is smitten.
It’s easy to gush over what is, I have to admit, my favourite musical, but it is impossible not to. This is a pitch perfect show and a glorious homage to the golden era of Hollywood that gladdens the heart and warms the soul and it has become as iconic as the movie.
It’s the ultimate uplifting and most joyous musical ever staged. A triumph from its Fit As A Fiddle opening to the splashy and exuberant Singin’ In The Rain reprise.
Singin’ In The Rain plays at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday.