Upstairs At The Gatehouse, London
Screenplay by Betty Comden & Adolph Green
Songs by Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Freed
Directed by John Plews
There is a delightful air of ambition that pervades each Christmas musical at the Gatehouse and this year is no exception. In offering Singin' In The Rain to the good people of Highgate, director John Plews aims high indeed. The songs are classic, the book has the potentially lethal cocktail of gorgeous romance mixed with schmaltzy simplicity and of course there's "that" iconic scene.
Plews is a visionary creative and it is to his credit that his productions blend recently trained performers with seasoned West End and commercial talent. The story needs little introduction. Set in Hollywood, Monumental Pictures is contemplating the end of silent movies as glamorous starlet Lina Lamont realises that her voice is not as good as her looks. Meanwhile, dashing co star Don Lockwood has stumbled upon the demure and angelically voiced Kathy Selden. Love blossoms and jealousies burn as the rain-sodden tale unfolds.
The principal roles are all cast delightfully. Frankie Jenna's Kathy is a beautifully pitched performance of vocal perfection whilst Paul Harwood's Cosmo (Lockwood's best friend) offers up some great dance routines, with especially beautiful work in Moses Supposes and Make 'Em Laugh. This show's moments of breathtaking excellence however come from the carefully crafted performances that Plews coaxes from Simon Adkins' Lockwood and Thea Jo Wolfe's Lamont. Adkins' West End pedigree is manifest in his voice, his presence and his dance. He consistently convinces as the era's dashing movie-star, bringing a gravitas of quality to the performance that drives the entire show. Wolfe, a relative newcomer to professional theatre is just deliciously contemptible as the story's villain. Her dumb blonde vocal squawk is painfully hilarious and her mastery of Lamont's charisma, envy and ultimate fragility belies an acting talent of some considerable depth. Elsewhere, Nick Barclay is the believable Monumental boss R.F. Simpson and Emily Wigley sets the scene nicely as a Movietone news reporter.
The Gatehouse show offers a delicious flourish with its screenings of grainy black and white movie footage that the story demands. Seasoned director Monica Swelp racks up another triumph with her interpretations of The Royal Rascal and The Duelling Cavalier.
Chris Whittaker's choreography cleverly exploits the compact traverse performing space, with tap routines that make lavish use of the dozen performers and yes, for an off West End production there's even a rain drenched title number that includes the baton-twirling cop on his beat. Up in the gallery Matt Ramplin's six piece band knock out the favourites with a pleasing familiarity.
Singin' In The Rain makes for perfect festive fayre. A classic tale, beautifully told that brings a splash of Broadway rhythm to North London. It put a smile on my face!
Runs until 25th January 2015