rain dance

It's wet, it's wonderful, it's Singin' in the Rain

Singin' in the Rain

Birmingham Hippodrome


The golden age of Hollywood is shining bright again at Birmingham Hippodrome with a fabulous production of MGM’s classic musical Singin’ in the Rain. It’s a downpour of sparkling entertainment.

We are back in 1927 and the dawn of talkies with Warner Brothers about to release The Jazz Singer and Monumental Pictures about to release The Royal Rascal, a film with every trait of the bad silent movie and then some, starring screen and fan magazine lovers Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont.

With The Jazz Singer a runaway success Monumental had to produce their own talkie. Now the talkies ended many a silent star career, some not liking the new medium or its restrictive microphone placement, some going back to stage work and some because their voices didn't fit their screen image . . . so, enter Jenny Gayner in a simply outstanding performance as Lina.

Lina is nasty, self centred and a poster girl for dumb, really dumb, blondes. In silent films she has all the attributes needed – she is pretty and photogenic.

In talkies . . . she has a voice that sounds like a Joe Pasquale love child brought up in a yet to be discovered part of Brooklyn with its own patois. And if that’s bad for talkies, wait until she sings . . . a cat being slowly strangled, hitting the right note occasionally in passing. You just had to love her. 

kathy seated

Charlotte Gooch as Kathy Selden

Matching her stellar comedy performance was Ross McClaren as Cosmo Brown, the part played by Donald O’Connor in the 1952 film. Cosmo is Monumental’s mood pianist, to give silent actors some idea of what they are supposed to be feeling in a scene. He is also the ex-vaudeville partner of Don Lockwood. He is a bundle of energy and one liners and his Make ‘Em Laugh is one of the stand out routines of the show.

Sam Lips has it all as Lockwood, he can sing, has that easy dance style and looks and acts the part in a classy performance while Charlotte Gooch shines as Kathy Selden. Kathy is a struggling actress Don falls for, which puts Lina’s noise really ouda jowaint, as she would say, even more so when she finds the studio is using Kathy to dub her weapon's grade voice.

It was the part which launched the then 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds on her career. And Gooch does it full justice with a lovely voice, shy innocence and flowing dance moves, and, importantly, she and Sam sing and dance together quite beautifully.

Musical theatre aficionados, incidentally, may well remember Miss Gooch as an excellent Dale Tremont with the brilliant Alan Birkitt as Jerry Travers in a five star Top Hat at the Hippodrome, back in 2015.

Running the studio is R F Simpson, a confident performance from the experienced Dale Rapley while the studio director, Roscoe Dexter, is left in the capable hands of Michael Matus. The pair, with a long West End and Shakespeare pedigree, show spot on comic timing helping keep the humour on track.

A mention too for Sandra Dickinson as radio announcer Dora Bailey and the, by now probably suicidal, dialect coach brought in to attempt to teach Lina to speak in something approaching English, and also a nod to the men’s dialect coach, played by Alastair Crosswell.


Michael Matus as director Roscoe Dexter with the task of making Lina sound vaguely normal on film

He joins Don and Cosmo in a fun Moses Supposes dance tap routine – and there is a lot of tap in this show – remember the film was directed by Gene Kelly and was a vehicle for his talents.

The iconic song, of course, is Singin’ in the Rain, a song incidentally written for MGM's The Hollywood Revue of 1929, with Kelly’s version a standout moment in cinema history.

And boy, does this stage production do all it can to match it with some 14,000 litres of water pouring down twice every night! That’s about 250 ten-minute showers for those who like obscure facts.

Sam Lips sloshes about with a look of sheer delight – and remember a mac if you are on the first few rows, this dance takes no prisoners as it heads to the interval.

And just as the front rows are drying out, ready to go home, on comes the finale with the entire cast on stage as the heavens open yet again, adding a little more audience precipitation, sorry, participation.

The entire cast, by the way, are just faultless, they can sing, dance and make every scene seem alive, including the dream Broadway ballet sequence which brought in the gloriously sexy Harriet Samuel-Gray in a jazz sequence with hints of the Slaughter on Tenth Avenue ballet about it. It was danced by Cyd Charisse in the film. 

It all comes down to some fine choreography from Andrew Wright, on view from a spectacular ensemble opening scene, all under the steady hand of director Jonathan Church. The magnificent set, a studio sound stage – or silent stage to start off – which turns to offices, a street, and a theatre, is down to Simon Higlett, who also gave us some very authentic 1920’s costumes.

This touring production brings a lot of heavy duty sound equipment with it and it shows. Gareth Owen’s sound design has to balance singing, dancing and the important element of tap with a 10 piece orchestra under musical director Grant Walsh (hidden at the back of the Hippodrome’s cavernous stage). And Owen does it brilliantly. The sound is full, rich and crystal clear, loud enough to involve an audience but not enough to deafen them, with every element clearly heard.

Tim Mitchell's lighting is spectacular while the dreadful silent movies and early attempt at talkies, designed by Ian William Galloway, are laugh a minute stuff.

The simple fact it is a Michael Harrison and Jonathan Church production is a pointer to the quality and production values on show. Michael Harrison has a reputation for not scrimping on detail and the details make for good shows.

The film, incidentally, was not a huge success when it came out but is now on pretty much every list of top musicals, with the curtain first rising on the stage musical, following closely the original Betty Comden and Adolph Green screenplay, at the London Palladium in 1983.

Almost 40 years on it is still going strong. It is simply fabulous, feel good, fun, and you are guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face, a spring in your step and come rain or shine, singing that song in your mind for days. To 11-06-22.

Roger Clarke


As a little aside the plot has a central theme of the famous lead actress, Lina,  having to have her voice dubbed by an unknown, Kathy.

In the film, Lina, played by Jean Hagen, was supposedly being dubbed by Kathy, played by Debbie Reynolds, but in reality, unknown to the audience, Reynolds was in turn being dubbed, uncredited, in a couple of songs by Betty Noyes, and all her high notes were dubbed.

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