Words: Simon Button; pictures: Manuel Harlan
As comedy sidekick Cosmo Brown in Singin’ in the Rain, Kevin Clifton is a show-stealing revelation.
I know from Strictly Come Dancing on TV that he can dance up a storm and has charm to spare. But, not having seen any of his other stage work in the likes of Rock of Ages and Strictly Ballroom, I had no idea he was such a gifted singer and comedian.
In this lively stage version of the 1952 classic MGM movie (which was first done in the West End in 1983), Clifton’s Cosmo is the best-friend to Adam Cooper’s Hollywood superstar Don Lockwood - with the seemingly ageless Cooper returning to the role he made his own when he starred in and choreographed the Sadler’s Wells revival in 2004 - a production now rightly considered as the definitive one.
Charlotte Gooch and Adam Cooper in Singin' in the Rain (Photo Manuel Harman)
And in Clifton’s remarkably capable hands, feet, and body, Cosmo is no second fiddle to the leading man. To see him slapstick his way through ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ is to marvel at his physical prowess and comic timing.
Best known as one-fifth of Steps, Faye Tozer has more than proved her musical theatre mettle in such shows as Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Me and My Girl and she’s hilarious here as Nina Lamont - a big screen diva whose transition from silent movies to the talkies is hampered by the fact she has a voice so squeaky it makes fingernails on a blackboard sound like a symphony.
Faye Tozer in Singin' in the Rain (Photo: Manuel Harman)
And just wait till you hear her sing ‘What’s Wrong With Me?’ so deliberately out of tune, it’s an absolute hoot.
Faithfully following every plot point in the movie, the show is set in the late 20s and chronicles a movie studio’s trials and tribulations in trying to turn silent feature ‘The Duelling Cavalier’ into an-all singing, all-dancing spectacular, with Don and co pulling the wool over Nina’s eyes by having ingenue Kathy Seldon (a lovely and spirited Charlotte Gooch) secretly lip-sync her lines.
Cue big production numbers, spectacular sets, and some good old-fashioned clowning in a show that is both an homage to Hollywood’s golden age and also a satire of it.
Adam Cooper in Singin' in the Rain (Photo Manuel Harlan)
And if Cooper is sometimes overshadowed by his co-stars (not through any fault of his own but because their roles are more show off-y) he’s simply dazzling when he sings in the rain.
Merrily splashing the front few rows, his sheer joy of performing - like this most joyous of shows - puts a beaming smile on everyone’s face.
Singin’ in the Rain is at Sadler’s Wells, London, until 5 September. For great deals on tickets and shows click here.
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