'Singin' in the Rain' is such a perfect metaphor for riding out the recessionary blues that by rights this musical should be prescribed for every capital in the stricken eurozone. A saucily stylish import from the Chichester Festival Theatre, Jonathan Church's exuberant production looks back to Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's 1952 film, which itself looks back to 1927 – two years before the Wall Street Crash, when flappers, film stars and aviators were partying like there was no hungover tomorrow.
Great fashion and technology were the hallmarks of the brave new modernist era, so it's apt as well as comically fertile that (as in 'The Artist') the screenplay writers pick as their theme the moment when silent movies turned to talkies.
The love triangle at the centre of the story contains a female character whose voice sounds like a cross between a rocket balloon and fingers being scratched down a blackboard, so it's pretty obvious from the start how the story's going to end.
Katherine Kingsley – a delightful mix of over-coiffured bombast and neurotic vanity – revels in her role as the unfortunate film actress Lina Lamont, whose career as a romantic heroine both on screen and off is brought screeching to an end when microphones expose her melodically challenged vocal talents.
As Don Lockwood, her reluctant on-screen lover, the highly talented Adam Cooper manages to steer the right course between smooth and narcissistically slimy. When it comes to the central number 'Singin' in The Rain' you can practically see him give a huge sigh of pleasure before skimming through the on-stage puddles, sending up great arcs of glee as he whooshes the water into the audience.
On Simon Higlett's sophisticated, muted set Scarlett Strallen, playing Don's genuine love interest Kathy, shows off a singing talent that could launch a thousand ships.
As a jobbing actress who wins Don's over-polished heart partly by failing to recogise him in the street, she seems to capitulate a little too quickly from indignation to besottedness, but the warm vibrato of her voice as she launches into Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed's songs quells lurking criticisms.
Aside from the central attractions, Church's production is stuffed with delights both ephemeral and essential: hilarious dubbing cock-ups, immaculate choreography, endless gems of cameos. Whatever the state of your bank balance, this is a great investment – for me, at least, the show induced a very happy calm after the storm.
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