Occasionally one sees a show which is totally uplifting! This describes the performance of Singin’ In The Rain which was mounted by Showtime Challenge 48-Hour Musicals at the Adelphi Theatre in aid of the Lewy Body Society, a charity dedicated to research into the diagnosis and treatment of this type of dementia which affects over 15% of sufferers. Everyone involved in the production gave their time for free, which included an ensemble of around 40, a dance troupe approaching 60, over 20 named principals, an orchestra including a full string section, and a production team of 57, besides host Julian Clary, who was as outrageous as ever!
Auditions took place in June 2019, and those who were successful were given scripts and music and told to go away and learn the show – but NOT rehearse with anyone else! Rehearsals began on the evening of Friday 11th October in about 20 different rooms culminating in a performance on Sunday evening. The organisers even found time for both Technical and Dress rehearsals – sleep and food were also allowed!
The overall standard, obviously owing much to the talent and skills of all involved, was extremely high.
Alyn Hawke impressed hugely in the Gene Kelly role of silent film star Don Lockwood. Not only has he a velvety smooth singing voice, he is the epitome of the romantic lead and can also act and dance! The title number was the undoubted highlight of Act One, as it should be, owing much to the choreographic skills of Grant Murphy as well as the set design of Christina Cammarota, who both contrived to ensure that Don got wet!
Sam Peggs was Cosmo Brown, easily filling the shoes of Roy Castle, who made the role his own in the first West End production many years ago! He had the ability to appear totally relaxed on stage and his acting was effortless. He used his face to good effect and had a good line in (rehearsed?) ad libs whenever there was a slight hiatus in the production! Like everyone else in the cast he used Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s intelligent and witty dialogue to great effect and was exceedingly amusing BUT never upstaged anyone else! I was very impressed -we need to see more of him!
Kathy Selden, the love interest, was given a very believable, fully motivated, portrayal by Julie Andrews’ look-alike Maria Coyne. She had the ability to really put over her musical numbers, rather than just singing them and there was certainly chemistry between her and Don! This was a superb performance in every respect.
Ann-Marie Craine clearly enjoyed her role as the silent film actress with an awful, singing and speaking voice, but was able to put some depth into her part: at times we actually felt quite sorry for her. BUT she was VERY funny, especially in the interpolated black and white silent film scenes (yes, they found time over the weekend to record these in some London park as well as rehearse!) In fact there was a lot of pathos in the way that this actor approached her role: by far the best I have seen.
In secondary roles, Patrick Lewin (Young Cosmo) and especially Samuel Bailey (Young Don) impressed with their dancing ability and Suanne Braun (Dora), Kate Playdon (Miss Dinsmore) and Francesca Pim (Zelda) added to the general fun, as did Alex McDonald as the (British!) Policeman in the title song.
Singing from the ensemble was of a very high standard with some lovely harmony work and diction was exemplary. The dance troupe was split into various groups as the Adelphi stage was not large enough for all to dance at once: whilst many of the routines were clearly straightforward for those involved, every number had its ‘showpiece’ moment. The clever director, Esther Biddle, also contrived to use various parts of the auditorium in which to place her huge cast, when space ran out on stage. Hers was a smooth running, traditional production, but one which had terrific energy, and was therefore able to bring out the more poignant moments when required.
It is easy to just write about those performers one actual sees in a show like this and forget those ‘backstage’. For Singin’ In The Rain, these included the highly experienced Leigh Thompson as Musical Supervisor, whose grandmother recently died of Lewy Body dementia after a short illness. I gather that there was no orchestral rehearsal as such and the quality of singing and playing that he achieved is testament not only to his abilities but also to those he was conducting.
Costumes were lavish! In charge, with a huge team behind her, was Bronya Arciszewska, who not only contrived that everyone had one costume (many had far more than one), she also made it look as if they had been specially imaginatively designed and made for this one performance.
Ben Scriven was the inventive director of the various short films, lighting designer was Ben M Rogers, sound engineer Graham Deacon and the all important Stage Manager – he who keeps everything going! – Calum Kean. I apologise profusely that I cannot name everyone!
This was one of the best evenings I have spent in a theatre for a long time: just so enjoyable and uplifting. If there is anyone reading this who did NOT see the single performance at the Adelphi but would like to donate to this very worthwhile charity, the link is: www.showtimechallenge.co.uk/donate
And for those who would like to see another, totally different, production of Singin’ In The Rain it is being staged at The Mill at Sonning over Christmas and new Year.
Showtime Challenge 48 Hour Musicals and everyone who participated in every aspect of the production must be warmly congratulated on a superb evening.
Review by John Groves
Hosted by Julian Clary, Showtime Challenge 48-Hour Musicals brings together a cast of 100(ish) professional actors and talented amateurs, a 30-piece orchestra, and a hard-working prod uction team. All giving up their time for the chosen charity, they pull together to produce a West End-standard all-singing, all-dancing musical in just 48 hours.
The Lewy Body Society, established in June 2006 in the UK, was the first charity in Europe exclusively concerned with Lewy body dementia. Its mission is to fund clinical research to improve the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. It also raises awareness of Lewy body dementia among the general public and those in the medical profession and decision making positions, and provides information resources for patients & carers. www.lewybody.org
“We’re delighted to be the charity partner for this year’s 48-hour musical. It is a huge opportunity to raise awareness of Lewy body dementia and raise much-needed funds for research into the disease. We can’t wait to work with the fantastic Showtime Challenge team on what we’re sure will be a weekend to remember for everyone involved.” Jacqueline Cannon, CEO, The Lewy Body Society
Rehearsals start on the Friday night. None of the cast have worked together on the show before this time. Then 48 amazing, exciting, exhausting hours later, ready or not, it’s showtime!
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN HOSTED BY JULIAN CLARY
Sun 13 October 2019