I have always believed in happy endings. I grew up watching Disney movies, dreaming of Prince Charming riding into the sunset and living happily ever after. Honestly, I believed that I was going to marry Aladdin until I was about twelve. Of course, now that I’m older, I have a more realistic view of relationships, and I know that happily ever after is hard to find. But I’ve never lost the faith that I will find it. I believe relationships are incredibly difficult, but I think that if you find someone who inspires and challenges you, someone whom you can trust and count on and enjoy, then you can work towards a happy ending. I know Prince Charming is there; he just might bump into you instead of riding up on a white horse.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting happily ever after. That’s a positive goal to work towards! As long as I’m aware of reality, as long as I know that there will be challenges and obstacles, I might as well hope for the best. I won’t settle, because I do believe that real happiness is tangible and as long as you don’t give up, you can achieve it.
Musical theatre gets a lot of critique for being cheesy and not representative of real life. Everything doesn’t always work out in the real world, with conflict resolving in a rousing ensemble number while the lovers kiss on a pedestal, their love triumphing. But that’s what I like about them. I know that’s not what real life is, but cheesy musicals and movies and books keep me optimistic and romantic. I think if I never saw happily ever after, I’d look at life a lot harder. You don’t go to a musical for an accurate representation of your every day life; you go to be entertained, to be taken to a different world where everything works out. Musicals make you happy and they give you hope.
Last week, I saw the brand new production of “Singin’ in the Rain” at the Palace Theatre in the West End, and I left with my cheeks hurting from smiling so much, and my toes anxious to dance. Before I get into the review, I have something embarrassing to admit. Before two weeks ago, I had never seen the film. But I’m currently in a Film History class and the 1952 classic was in the curriculum. And I sat in the dark lecture hall, beaming, shocked that I’d never watched it before. It was one of the best movies I’d ever seen! The story was relevant, the dancing was exquisite, and the visuals were stunning!
But I’m not here to review the film. So, on to the production! I believe I was at an advantage having just seen the movie a week before because I was so aware of how incredibly true to the film the play stayed! Lines were almost taken directly, and scenes were only changed for logistical reasons. (For example, the song “Good Morning”, which is the only scene in Don Lockwood’s house in the movie, was moved outside in the play.) And while this production definitely put its own spin on the story, it included the iconic images that audiences would have been disappointed not to see. In the title track, Don swung around the lamp post and tiptoed on the curb; in “Make ‘Em Laugh”, Cosmo ran through a wall; in “Good Morning”, they tipped a bench (in lieu of a couch); and for the curtain call, the three came out in the iconic yellow raincoats. With a classic such as this, I would have been disappointed not to have these moments; thus, I was thrilled when each happened!
My single critique of the production was the one area where they blatantly strayed from the film. Obviously, they wanted to give the character Lena a little more to do, since she does not sing in the movie, so they added a new song for her. Perhaps I was too educated on the history of the film, but it really stood out for me. The majority of the songs in the movie were not written for the movie; alternatively, the writers were given a list of Freed and Brown songs that were actually written in the twenties and a script was written around them. In fact, the only two songs written at the time the film was made were “Make ‘Em Laugh” (which faced critique, since it’s almost identical to Cole Porter’s “Be A Clown”), and “Moses Supposes”. So to add a contemporarily written song (Lena’s number was written just for this 2012 revival), with references to characters and events in the plot, just really made it seem out of place.
It’s really hard not to compare the production with the film. The actors were brilliant and worked hard to embody the stars of the movie, but they really aren’t comparable. It’s near impossible to achieve the genius of Gene Kelly, but Adam Cooper, who played Don Lockwood in this production, gave it his best shot. He was obviously cast for his dancing ability, because he moved with both incredible grace and masculinity. His vocals weren’t as strong as they could be, but his stunning looks, charm, and dance skills made up for it. My favorite role in the show is Cosmo (in fact, Donald O’Connor reminds me of my late grandfather), and Daniel Crossley made a noble effort. He matched O’Connor’s vocals and dry humor impeccably, though “Make ‘Em Laugh” wasn’t quite as impressive or extensive as it is in the movie. He was great, but he was no Donald O’Connor. Finally, Scarlett Strallen played Kathy, and did so very well. I would say of the three, she got the closest to matching the talent level of her predecessor, though I do love Debbie Reynolds.
The production was grand, to say the least, with huge, elaborate, beautiful sets, drop dead gorgeous costumes, and incredible dance numbers. Though it was a shorter version than in the film, the “Broadway Melody Ballet” was spectacular. The dancing was divine, and the use of brightly colored costumes and neon lights made it look just like the movie!
The most impressive aspect, of course, was the rain. I have to hand it to the technical geniuses who designed the set, because twice in the show (in the title track and in the encore after the curtain call), it torrentially down-poured onto the stage. This was no drizzle by any means. And I was so impressed with the actors’ abilities to dance through it with such ease. Adam Cooper had his big dance number, and did it effortlessly, but in the finale, the entire cast danced in the pouring rain. It was visually stunning. My jaw was on the floor!
I know I was critical of the cheesiness in “Crazy for You”, and yet am praising a musical with an equally cliched Hollywood ending; however, “Singin’ in the Rain” believes what it’s saying. I felt as if “Crazy for You” was mocking themselves, acting over the top on purpose, while “Singin’ in the Rain” was honest and true. This is a musical that leaves you feeling happy, believing in happily ever after, and wanting to dance. It was a truly wonderful way to spend my night. And I’m sure I got some funny looks as I then twirled and tapped my way down the streets of London!
Until the next curtain call,