I have a, perhaps apocryphal, memory from a short, not entirely enjoyable, stay at Butlins in Minehead in 1963 that the music they played across the camp as a wake up call each morning, was a cover version of Good Morning, featuring the timeless line ‘Good morning, good mor-or-or-ning, welcome to Butlins camp’.
It was a shock, then, when I heard the ‘proper’ version when I saw the movie on afternoon television a few years later. The repetition of the tune in the early morning on seven consecutive days in early childhood seemingly having embedded itself somewhere very deep in my memory.
Since then the MGM film of Singin’ in the Rain has become a favourite; I’ve watched it more times than I can count. I love the white overcoat and hat that Gene Kelly is wearing when we first see him lit by flash bulbs on his way up the red carpet to the première that opens the movie, and the bit in Make ‘em Laugh when Donald O’Connor dances up the wall and somersaults back to the floor, and watching Kelly, O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds dance over the back of a sofa making it fall over towards the end of Good Morning.
There was therefore both anticipation and a little fear of disappointment in going to see the current West End production. Would I see what I was hoping for? I’m pleased to report a fairly satisfactory score of 2 out of 3: the white coat, and dancing over the sofa, although on stage they used a park bench; I can understand why the running up the wall trick didn’t feature, although they did give a nod to its absence, so my disappointment wasn’t too great.
In fact, this is another feel good show, all singing and dancing, and the dancing is tremendous fun. There is also the water; lots of it. It pours down from the roof onto the stage, creating a little paddling pool for Adam Cooper as Don Lockwood to kick through, showering the first three rows or so of the stalls with enough water to have them squealing and laughing each time.
The dancing is better than the singing, but that’s enough for it to be a toe-tapping, jolly experience. It’s faithful enough to the film to feel comfortable, but not slavish to it so that there is something individual about it too. The use of projected film, to show the first efforts by Lockwood and Lamont to talk for the screen was cleverly done; as was the humour Lina Lamont’s strangulated vowels and high pitched voice.
And any show that can make umbrellas fun, has to be worth it, doesn’t it?