What a glorious feeling, as one of Hollywood’s best-loved musicals tours the UK following its run in the West End.
It’s 1927, and Monumental Pictures will never be the same as they face the inevitable switch to talking pictures. Silent star Don Lockwood (played by James Leece) is betrothed to the insufferable Lina Lamont (Coronation Street’s Vicky Binns), according to the gossip magazines, but in reality he can’t stand her. One night at a post-premiere party, he meets wannabe stage star Kathy Selden (the charming Amy Ellen Richardson) and the rest, as they say, is history. Staying loyal to the movie in most ways, with a few original touches, the show is pure joy and escapism with a seamless production.
From the minute the curtain rises, cast and crew give their all as people, sets and 12,000 litres of water make their way on and off the set. Did I mention the water? For this production, the (theatrical) heavens open and a special slatted stage drains the water back into a specially made tank – after Don splashes around in it, of course.
The design is sumptuous and a colourful array of suits, fringed dresses and furs shimmy around the set, which transitions with an ease that is the envy of anyone who’s ever worked in theatre. We’re also treated to multimedia display as the hilarious scenes from doomed picture, The Duelling Cavalier, are shown on a suspended screen.
Of course, the most joyful aspect of the show is the musical numbers and the exceptional dancing that accompanies it. The Broadway Melody scene is wonderfully executed, with hanging neon signs and light-up pavements complementing the sequence perfectly. The band, cleverly elevated at the top of the set so as not to get wet, create a spine-tingling atmosphere as Don, Kathy and Cosmo perform the tap sequences with flair. Stephane Anelli is a close match for Donald O’Connor as Cosmo, who is incredibly agile, energetic and hilarious as the role demands.
Also on top comedic form is Vicky Binns as Lina, who summons all her sass to simultaneously annoy and tickle the audience with her antics. Though she shouts a little, she’s spot on physically.
By the end of the evening, we were grinning from ear to ear (and many in the front rows were still laughing from being splashed) as we left the theatre on a high. A combination of winning performances, stunning design and classic, joyful musical numbers results in a truly uplifting and memorable show. It’s in Bristol until the 9th of August – don’t miss it!