Perennial favourite Singing
In The Rain opens at Grimsby Auditorium this week and runs until Saturday. If you can get a ticket, do yourself a favour and get down there. It is a full-scale musical extravaganza, directed by David Wrightam, choreographed by Hayley Wrightam and Musical Director is Simon Percy - what a team! The end product is brilliant. It is an ambitious undertaking to stage this show and the creative minds behind this show have achieved fabulous results. The spectacle will certainly not disappoint. Some tickets are still available, and I highly recommend a trip down memory lane to see this classic performed live on stage.
The show begins at the tail-end of the silent movie boom in Hollywood. Sharing the limelight with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino is matinee idol and big screen heartthrob Don Lockwood played by Gary Howson-Smith. Stepping into the iconic taps shoes of Gene Kelly as Don, Howson-Smith does a terrific job in bringing the role to life, from the silent pictures' ham acting to toe-tapping, umbrella-twirling, all-singing and all-dancing he does a great job. As someone who took up tap dancing to win the role, Howson-Smith impresses with some fabulous choreography courtesy of Hayley Wrightam. His singing voice is warm and mellifluous and he throws himself into the role - folks will be delighted to see him dance under real water during one of the most memorable and iconic scenes in movie musical history.
Lockwood's best friend since childhood is Cosmo Brown, played by the immensely talented Kaius Calver-Hart. Always living in his long-time partner's shadow, Cosmo nevertheless provides some much needed contrast to the lovestruck and slightly egotistical Don. Calver-Hart really sells the comedy song Make 'Em Laugh and his enthusiasm and energetic performance of the role throughout, really is infectious. Audiences will enjoy the scene where a stuffed dummy appears to try to take advantage of Cosmo!
A special mention must go to Freddie Hall and Jack Collins who portray the young Don and young Cosmo in a scene recalling the pair's earliest days together. The boys' tap work is great and they sell the routine really well and are full of charm and confidence for such young performers. Full credit to them.
There are two leading ladies within this production and both steal the show in their own way. The first we encounter in the show is the power-crazed, egotistical and somewhat deluded Lina Lamont, played with real vigour by Gemma Williams. She provides a fantastic comic turn as the shrill voiced beauty, not cut out for the talkies. Williams is wonderful and you cannot help but love her Lina. She provides so many standout moments throughout the show and the audience will develop a love/hate relationship with the character whilst loving Williams' performance of the role. Lamont is such a grotesque. pantomime villain at times that you want to boo out loud as she seeks to prevent the rise of her rival for Don's affections. I loved watching Williams every time she took to the stage and her performance of What's Wrong With Me? was sensational.
Don Lockwood's romantic leading lady was portrayed by the always elegant, and supremely talented Kennedy Smith. She has such charm on stage and makes performing look effortless. Her vocals really are worthy of the professional stage and her dancing will take the audience's breath away and make you fall in love with her - just as Don does. You will root for Kathy Selden as she becomes the victim of a vicious smear campaign by Lina Lamont but like me, you may wonder why Don doesn't fight harder for her in this story. You Are My Lucky Star and Would You? are both standout performances that make the price of admission worthwhile on their own.
There are so man fantastic, memorable supporting roles within the show too. Diane Cliffe is perfect as the Hollywood gossip journalist, Dora Bailey. Philip Jones is terrific as Roscoe Dexter the director in fear of his star Lina Lamont. The film's producer RF Simpson provides Andrew Bailey the chance to really go over-the-top with his bombastic, larger-than-life portrayal. The two long-suffering vocal coaches are wonderful cameos for both Wesley Moxon and Amanda Lichfield. Scott Howson-Smith delivers a pitch perfect rendition of the ballad Beautiful Girl. Ann Forward is a busy and attentive assistant as Rhonda and Kim Taylor is a fantastically scheming Zelda who runs to Lina to snitch on Kathy's presence on set. And there are excellent supporting performances from Jeannine Ridha, Ian Jones, Devon Riley, Jess Hughes, James Gosling, Chelsey Millman and Jake Taylor. Special mention goes to Sally-Ann Eaglestone-Stout who does a fantastic impression of Charlie Chaplin in the show.
The highlight of the show for me was the wonderful dance chorus though, whose work was tireless, energetic and quite breath-taking. The beautiful dance sequences provided so many opportunities to shine and to see such gifted dancers performing with winning smiles and alluring costuming, really elevates the production. Hats off to every one of them they really help to make the show.
The stage crew, so often the unsung heroes are worked hard throughout and appear in character on stage shifting the Hollywood scenery as riggers and set builders effectively and never interfering with the performance of the principals. I must also congratulate the wonderful orchestra led by Simon Percy, returning as Musical Director for Curtain Up for the third year running. It really makes such a difference to see and hear such virtuoso musicianship live rather than relying on backing tracks. Bravo to all the musicians and crew. The costuming is once again exemplary and the wonderfully, colourful dresses worn during Beautiful Girl, look simply stunning. As always, it takes a village to stage a large-scale musical so credit all round to anyone or any department I have failed to mention.
Curtain Up really deliver in this show and audiences will find something to celebrate in every scene of the show and I thoroughly recommend that you get down to the Auditorium for a treat as soon as possible. The show runs until Saturday 3rd February 2024.
Andy Evans 31 January 2024.