Singin' in the Rain: A brief history and cast interviews

In the UK and Ireland tour of the Chichester Festival Theatre and Stage Entertainment production directed by Jonathan Church, Adam Cooper and Sam Lips play Don Lockwood (see website for venues) - a huge star in 1920s Hollywood who is suddenly tasked with helping turn silent movie The Duelling Cavalier into a talkie. Trouble is, his co-star Lina Lamont has a terrible speaking voice and she and Don have been playing the happy couple to appease the publicity department, which complicates his burgeoning romance with chorus girl Kathy Selden.

Directed and choreographed by Kelly and legendary director Stanley Donen (whose other screen musical credits include On the Town and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) the film version was surprisingly not the huge hit its iconic status suggests, raking in a respectable but not blockbusting $7.2 million against a $2.54 million budget.

Most critics loved it but it was only up for a couple of Oscars (for Best Supporting Actress and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture) and the only major award it bagged was a Golden Globe for Donald O’Connor. Time has been kind to the movie, though, with many film historians citing it as the greatest screen musical ever and it is currently ranked fifth on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 best films.

Sticking faithfully to the original story but including a few additional songs, the stage musical premiered at the London Palladium in 1983, was directed by and starred Tommy Steele and ran for nearly two years. It opened on Broadway in 1985 and returned to the West End in 1989 with Broadway star Don Correia.

In the 90s Paul Nicholas took it on tour around the UK and there were revivals in 2000 at the National Theatre and 2004 at Sadler’s Wells, the latter of which featured Adam Cooper in the lead as well as on duty as choreographer. Adam went on to play Don again at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2011 and in the West End in 2012, returning to the show at Sadler’s Wells last year ahead of this year’s UK and Ireland tour.

Charlotte Gooch is back as Kathy, having played the aspiring starlet in London and Japan, and she agrees Singin’ in the Rain is the perfect tonic for troubled times. “It’s nice to have some old-school musical escapism,” says the actress who hails from Godalming in Surrey. “It gives everyone a nice, joyous feeling for a couple of hours and an escape from the darkness that is the outside world right now. It’s romance, it’s comedy and there’s a happy ending.”

Having previously appeared in Flashdance, Top Hat and Dirty Dancing, Charlotte adds: “It’s all-singing, all-dancing, all-acting, and Kathy is such a joyful character. Everything about her is cheeky, loveable and wholesome and I love bringing all that to life.”

Asked to name a favourite number in the show, she cites Good Morning. “We have so much fun,” she says of goofing around with Sam and Kevin. “We’re meant to be playing and bantering with each other, and we genuinely are. I also love the encore in which we all get to splash around in the water. I still have moments where I’m thinking ‘It’s raining! Inside a theatre!’ Who normally gets to do that for a living?”

As Lina Lamont, Jenny Garner shared the part with Faye at Sadler’s Wells and full-time in Japan. A stage veteran who has also been in everything from Annie and Spamalot to Chicago and Legally Blonde, she was drawn to the squeaky-voiced character because: “I’m a sucker for comedy. I absolutely love making people laugh so it’s a gift of a role, although she’s not as stupid as she appears at the beginning and you want her naivety to come across because you don’t want the audience to hate her.”

Deliberately singing out of tune isn’t as hard as it seems or indeed sounds. “People have said to me you need to be able to sing well to sing out of tune and I’m grabbing on to that,” laughs the actress from Leigh-on-Sea. “It’s a lot of fun but you don’t want to go too far with it, otherwise it can makes it unbelievable, and playing the truth with Lina is important”. 

Japanese etiquette meant that audiences over there were instructed not to laugh, talk or cheer during a performance. “But they’d applaud at the end of a number and not stop,” Jenny says. “That’s how they expressed their enjoyment. Now I’m looking forward to being on tour over here and a more vocal reaction, to making everyone laugh and giving them a really good time. Laughter really is the best medicine, isn’t it?”

Singin' in the Rain splashes down in Southampton on 14 June 2022 for 1 week only. Don't miss out - get your tickets now!

 
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