Singin' in the Rain
23rd November 2017
Palace Theatre Westcliff-on-Sea
Type of Production
Author: Tessa Davies
I must start by complimenting all the cast on their performances, whilst I did have some issues with the production, this should not detract from the excellent performances given by the cast.
The male leads, Robert Maynard (Don Lockwood) and Ewan Dunlop (Cosmo Brown) were both excellent performers, it is just such a shame that they both looked 18 and clearly not portraying the ‘experienced vaudevillians’ required by the script. Had this been a youth production I would have found no fault with either performance but, in an adult show, they just looked too young. This made Kirsty Bone (Kathy Selden) look older than necessary and simply made the contrast between her a Don even more unsuitable. Kirsty’s performance was good, but she had an uphill struggle to make it believable. Laura Mann played Lina Lamont well, the voice is distinctive, and she got it just right.
Les Cannon played Roscoe Dexter with just enough ‘camp’ to make it interesting, Les will always produce a good performance and this was no exception. Jonny Buxton (R F Simpson) Ashley-Marie Stone (Dora Bailey) and Declan Wright (Rod & Male Tenor) completed the Principal line-up. The company produced good characters and the vocals were good.
I thought that using film footage to portray Don and Cosmo’s earlier years was a good idea but why were they played by girls? Their female shape was obvious, and they even wore modern jazz boots! I am sure it would have been easy to find two boys to be filmed for this section, such a wasted opportunity.
There were a number of other things in the direction that I found difficult to come to terms with. For example, using a trampette for Make ‘em Laugh was an excellent idea but please disguise it to look in period and have it on stage all the time. Bringing a modern one on just for Cosmo to do one trick and then taking it off again was not in keeping with the concept of the number.
On to Beautiful Girl, beautifully sung by Declan Wright, but the clue is in the title. Whilst I appreciate that there is not much work for the chorus in this show, in my opinion, Beautiful girls is better with a smaller group. Then, there was Good Morning, supposedly set inside Don’s Mansion, he even says, “all this will go”. I couldn’t actually recognise the scene projected onto the backdrop but it was the park bench that made me think it was set outside, and at 2 in the morning!!
The finale of Act One, Singin’ in the Rain, is such an iconic number and Don Lockwood should be doing most of it alone with bystanders to dress the movement. Having him walk off before the end of the number, leaving the policeman to take the final steps, was such a shame. I appreciate that Don may not have been able to hang from the lamp post (as in the image used for the show) but he really should have been centre stage for the end of the number.
Costumes were a bit patchy, some were good (Lina’s and most of the opening costumes) some were not flattering (Kathy’s) some were out of period (R F’s trousers) there was a mixture of costumes in some of the dance numbers with some ladies covered up and others uncovered. If you are doing a show that is in a specific period, then it is important to get the costumes right.
I found the projected scenery a little confusing, it didn’t really tell me where we were at any given moment, a couple of cloths would have been more effective.
Sound was a bit patchy and, given that there had already been 2 performances I would have expected the mics to be turned up on cue. Lighting was OK although not really inspiring, there seemed to be a lot of simple lighting states used.
Having said all that, the audience were a lot less critical and clearly enjoyed the performance, I was pleased to see that the audience numbers were good. Thank you for your hospitality during the interval.