SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
The Alexandra, Birmingham, Thursday 22nd August, 2019
Once a year, the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham city centre becomes a nurturing ground for young talent with its Stage Experience scheme. This year the production is the stage musical version of the sublime Hollywood movie musical – it’s a big ask and, as ever, the young performers do more than acquit themselves. It’s staggering to think how much they achieve in so brief a rehearsal period; it’s thanks to director-choreographer Pollyann Tanner who waves a theatrical wand (or cracks a theatrical whip!) to marshal her company of one hundred and one performers into shape. Every single one of them performs with commitment, energy and discipline. Unfortunately, there is no space to list them all here.
Leading the cast is Ben Tanner as silent-movie star Don Lockwood, who shows very quickly he can croon and hoof impressively, bringing warmth to the role. As his best buddy Cosmo, Sam Rogers has a kind of manic humour that hits more than it misses, while Isabella Kibble is spot on as love interest Kathy Selden, even though it takes me a while to get used to Kathy as a blonde. When these three get together to perform Good Morning, all the elements align to make this number the highlight of the show for me – it’s just about perfect.
Jessica Walton shines as the villainous Lina Lamont, complete with tortuous accent and monstrous ego, and there is fine support from Thom Lambert as Roscoe Dexter and Jarrad Heath as studio boss R. F. Simpson – although he could do with greying up a little to distinguish him from the other young males.
As we have come to expect, the production/chorus numbers, though densely populated, are beautifully sung. Special mention goes to Jack Smyth for his assured vocals in Beautiful Girl. While there is much to marvel at in the organisation and execution of a production of this scale (the costume demands alone are mind-boggling), the show is also a lot of fun and enjoyable in itself. The specially filmed clips of the silent movies are hilarious, and the title song, with its obligatory rainfall, makes quite a splash.
On the whole, the accents are fine and the pacing works very well. There are occasions when the dialogue could be crisper, but it would be churlish of me to hold this against them. Yet again Stage Experience has produced dazzling results, has given a multitude of young people invaluable experience onstage and off, and above all, has given the audience an evening of quality entertainment.