Singin’ in the Rain, review: HAODS, The Capitol, Horsham, May 14-18

Cameron Rowell as Don Lockwood and Emily Falkner as Kathy Selden
Cameron Rowell as Don Lockwood and Emily Falkner as Kathy Selden

Since its release in 1952 Singin’ in the Rain has delighted generations with its relentlessly cheery tone and upbeat characters.

The sight of a loved up Gene Kelly crooning as it tips it down in the Hollywood streets is one of cinema’s most iconic images and many believe the film to be the finest movie musical ever made.

HAODS presents Singin' in the Rain

HAODS presents Singin' in the Rain

On top of that, the songs – ‘Make ’Em Laugh’, ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ to name but a few – are among the most recognised, celebrated and parodied numbers of all time.

So the HAODS team clearly had their work cut out for them when it came to bringing this musical to Horsham’s Capitol.

They’ve risen to the challenge though. From the singing, dancing and acting to the live musical accompaniment, set design and costumes, this is a production that captures the magic and sense of fun that the original film had.

The gentle story begins in 1927 Hollywood with silent film stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont enjoying the premiere of their latest hit by Monumental Pictures.

Eager to avoid Lina, who’s starting to believe the press gossip that they will soon be married, Don goes for a walk. But he gets accosted by fans and pretends to be a non-famous person, seeking cover next to a young woman on a bench. The girl, Kathy Selden, is an aspiring stage actress who is not impressed by Don, or film stars in general for that matter. Naturally, it’s the start of a endearing romance between the two, full of flirting, teasing, arguing and cake-throwing.

Meanwhile, The Jazz Singer, the world’s first talking picture, becomes a huge hit, causing chaos in the film industry as studios scramble to introduce sound into their movies too.

Monumental Pictures follows suit but Don and Lina’s ‘talkie’ debut is a disaster, riddled with sound problems and a truly dreadful performance by Lina who has a voice like nails on a chalkboard.

But Don, Kathy and Don’s friend Cosmo hit upon the idea of remaking the movie as a musical, dubbing over Lina’s lines with Kathy’s beautiful voice.

It’s a move that could see Kathy become a star herself, but the jealous Lina has other plans...

HAODS’ Singin’ in the Rain features winning performances from Cameron Rowell as Don and Emily Falkner as Kathy. They have very likeable onstage chemistry, conveying the pair’s silly but ultimately touching romance that gives this musical its heart. Their singing is spot-on too with the duo never missing a note, or even a footstep in the often intricate tap dancing routines. Emily Falkner is particularly good with the choreography, while Cameron Rowell, umbrella in hand, really nails the happy-go-lucky feel of the central musical number.

Chris Dale, HAODS’ go-to guy for comedy characters, is also great with the singing and dancing as Cosmo, mixing in a daunting amount of old-timey slapstick in his big number ‘Make Em Laugh’ without a noticeable drop in singing quality.

Daisy O’Sullivan, who has previously performed in relatively serious roles (Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Kitty in Pride and Prejudice) gets to flex her comedic muscles here too as Lina. She revels in playing the egotistical yet utterly talentless actress, adopting a shrill, irritating speaking voice that reaches new levels of awfulness in her big musical number ‘What’s Wrong With Me?’ A wonderfully obnoxious character.

There’s some great supporting performances from Chris Hampton as stressed-out film director Roscoe Dexter, Kev Summers as the benevolent studio boss R.F Simpson and Audrey Lucas as the vivacious press reporter Dora Bailey.

Alicia Marson performs as the petulant snitch (and friend of Lina’s) Zelda Zanders, while Howard Collis has fun as the male diction teacher in the tongue-twisting tune ‘Moses Supposes’.

Elizabeth Mackenzie (Mrs Dinsmore) and Mathew Forster (Rod) also do well with their roles and I was especially impressed with the singing skills of Jack Stone as the production tenor in the song ‘Beautiful Girls’.

Strong voices from the rest of the ensemble join forces with the brilliant live band led by musical director Neil Franks to bring those classic tunes back to life in a way that feels faithful to the original recordings.

It’s also important to note the use of video in this production. Instead of leaving it to the imagination, a team of HAODS filmmakers (including Cameron Rowell and Daisy O’Sullivan) went out to Amberley Castle to shoot the silent movie The Royal Rascal, as well as the other black and white movie segments for the show. These pastiches are mostly effective, getting good laughs from their intentionally hammy acting, dodgy sound quality and unconvincing sword fights.

Whether it’s necessary to include these parts is debatable, but it’s certainly a nice touch, presenting a now ancient media landscape to a modern audience...and poking fun at it.

Finally, special mention has to go to director and choreographer Tony Bright who has coordinated this whole spectacle very nicely.

Some may criticise the lack of serious conflict in the story, or even the easily resolved plot, but that’s really a trait of the original script and the optimistic 1950s mindset that created it.

Tony simply presents the musical as it should be, keeping the tale’s pleasantly dated charm, and giving it as much polish and flair as possible for the Horsham stage.

To find out more about HAODS visit haods.co.uk.