When the original stage version of Singin’ In The Rain first hit the West End, the production was successful … but only relatively so in comparison with the original film version.
This was because the iconic film had so much time and money spent on it with take after take of each scene and dance routine that it was almost impossible for any professional company to re-stage it to the film’s standards in one ‘take’ on a nightly basis.
So, it is was a major challenge for a local non-professional youth company like the BSPA to tackle this technically and physically demanding show as its Summer Youth Project.
However, under Peter Corry’s inspiring direction, which played to the cast’s strengths, this ambitious production by this adventurous company was a joy to watch.
The key to this success, apart from the talented and dedicated production team behind the production, lies in the fact that Corry did not opt for a carbon copy of the well-known and much-loved classic.
Instead, those famous scenes and routines were brought to life by the enthusiastic young cast with the use of some innovative ideas and touches to give the show a fresh feel, which made it more appealing to a new audience without ever losing the nostalgic feel of the original parody of Hollywood’s transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’.
From its opening with an on-stage roar by the famous MGM lion (well, it was set in the ‘roaring’ 20s!!) to its feel-good finale, this was a most entertaining show with an exceptionally capable line-up of principals and an energetic supporting ensemble.
Musically, the lovely underscoring and arrangements brought lots of romantic strings to the fore from the on-stage orchestra (which included some student players) and new Musical Director, Ashley Fulton – dressed in tails – really did get into the spirit of the piece.
Unusually, but effectively, using four of the company’s dance tutors – Kat Reagan, Kirsten Magee, Rachelle Mooney, Gemma Quigley-Greene – to choreograph different parts of the show was a master stroke as it again played not only to the company’s but also to the individual tutor’s strengths and ensured that the variety of footwork in this dance-orientated show was a strong back-bone of the production.
The dance highlights included; the comic vaudeville style of Fit As A Fiddle; the chorus girl routine of All I Do Is Dream Of You; the comedic and energetic style of Make ‘Em Laugh; the big production number, Beautiful Girl, in the style of the spectacular Hollywood showgirl routines; the graceful ballet of You Were Meant For Me; the tap routines of both Good Morning and the hoofer-filled production number, Broadway Melody; and the iconic splash/tapping of Act 1 finale, Singin’ In The Rain.
The musical highlights included the beautiful choral work in the well-staged You Stepped Out Of A Dream, the tenor vocals of Jared Green in Beautiful Girl, the choral work in You Were Meant For Me; and Emma Martin’s simple but effective vocals in both Lucky Star and Would You.
Well-used and well-positioned lighting created the right atmosphere on the black box stage, with some effective use of footlights, while the projections, which included some hilarious pre-filmed movie scenes, were always appropriate.
As a ‘backstage’ musical, the backstage elements were all well realised here and the impressive costumes were consistently reflective of the era, with the girls getting to wear glitzy and glamorous outfits and some period hairstyles.
All performances were more than worthy of each individual’s casting and all principals are to be congratulated on their playing.
Curtis Patrick sailed and splashed through his demanding role as the hard-working and suave movie star, Don Lockwood, who was searching for real love, while Conor Johnston impressed in what must be his best role yet with lots of the show’s better one-liners as Lockwood’s wacky and comic friend, Cosmo Brown.
Emma Martin was a feisty aspiring actress as Kathy Selden, while Emma Dallas also stood out, for her comedic playing, as the demanding, dim-witted and nasal starlet, Lina Lamont.
These two roles are also to be played by Johanna Johnston and Jessica Treacy, respectively, on alternate performances and, knowing both ladies, I have no doubt that their performances will be equally as good.
There were also very confident performances from Reuben Browne, as the successful producer, RF Simpson, and from Niall Brooks as the over-worked director, Roscoe Dexter.
In a way, this is a sad time for the company, and for the wider local musical theatre scene, as this production marks the last local production by no less than four of this show’s principals – Curtis Patrick, Johanna Johnston, Emma Martin and Reuben Browne – who all relocate to London drama schools shortly and who will all be greatly missed.
We wish them all every success for the future in the safe knowledge that this production also boasts some good up and coming talents like Conor Johnston, Emma Dallas, Jessica Treacy and Ellen Warnock (who made the most of her cameo as Zelda Zanders, here) to step into their big theatrical shoes.
One other innovative and nice touch was when the venue’s foyer was flooded with harmonies as the ensemble performed a set of rain-inspired songs from the balcony and stairs during the interval.
Finally, the feel-good finale may have had the entire company singing the title song dressed in yellow rain ponchos, but this was no ‘yellow pack’ production, as this show was totally ‘pouring’ with talent in every department.
Photo credit: Davy Scott
Singin’ In The Rain
Belfast School Of Performing Arts
The MAC, Belfast
Wed 23-Sat 26 Aug, 2017