Monday, 30 December 2019

REVIEW: Singin' in the Rain at The Mill at Sonning

The Mill at Sonning and the director Joseph Pitcher are establishing a regular festive treat of a musical theatre over Christmas and the New Year at the Berkshire dinner theatre. Following the success of the wonderful My Fair Lady, and last year's very good Guys and Dolls, they tackle the classic stage show based on the famous 1952 film starring Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain. The small thrust stage surrounded on three sides by audience presents a technical challenge to these productions which is solved this year by two large sponsors of the show who funded the film projection content and of course the essential rain system. These two elements define the production and provide the contextual setting for the talented cast to tell the story.

The projection shows the 1927 silent movie from Monumental Pictures called The Royal Rascal with Lina Lamont and Don Lockwood and then newspaper cuttings announce the success of the first talkie, the Jazz Singer which forces the studio to try and add words to there next film and retitle it The Dancing Cavalier. They are effectively produced but for those sat at side of the stage watching the film content on TV's it does feel rather overused and slows the pace of the show.

However the empty stage covered in wooden planks for drainage into the tank beneath is extremely well used in a succession of superb dance routines around the many great songs in the show not least the brilliant routines the close each act in the rainfall of the title song. Philip Bertioli is tremendous as Don Lockwood the heartthrob movie star especially as he recreates the famous routine including the watchful policeman. The warning to the front row that they might get wet is justified as he kicks the water and waves his umbrella. The whole cast reprise the song in a clever fun routine in coloured macs to bring the show to a climatic close.

Equally good are Brendan Cull as the pianist Cosmo Brown and Rebecca Jayne-Davies as the aspiring young actress Kathy Selden with good renditions of "All I do is dream of you ", "Make em laugh" , "Moses supposes" , "Good Mornin' ", and "Would you". Their tap dances together choreographed by Ashley Nottingham are very entertaining and use the space extremely well. There is
good support and characterisation from Sammy Kelly the beautiful silent film star with the grating voice, and an ensemble of ten each with well defined characters and a band of five under MD Francis Goodhand.

The director had a clear vision of how to stage this show and with the brilliant cast executes it to perfection sending the audience home smiling with delight and humming the wonderful tunes and looking forward to finding out which one of the suggested shows for 2020 will be staged.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Row D | Price of Ticket: £62, including 2 course dinner

Production photography by Andreas Lambis
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