Home Arts & Lit Review: Footlights’ ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

Review: Footlights’ ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

"Not a show to miss": Grace Rider and Mubanga Mweemba, Arts + Lit editor, review Exeter University Footlights' production of 'Singin' in the Rain'.

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The curtain rises to reveal a red carpet, a hoard of journalists and enthusiasts gather, and the brassy voice of Dora Bailey announces the arrival of a star studded procession. Behind the glitz and the gossip is a spectacle of another kind – one which requires fantasy to be taken beyond the screen. One where Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont’s relationship is fabricated in order to sell the cookie cutter romance for R.F Simpson’s production company. Singin’ in the Rain is is set in the capital of the movie making industry – Hollywood. It is the golden age of cinema, where motion pictures and broadway shows transform into the site where dreams can become reality.

Don Lockwood is subject to that pretence; a Hollywood heart-throb and the other half of the dynamic duo Lockwood and Lamont. He is at the top of his game. But on the other side of the curtain Don is not as enamoured with this life as the fan magazines may presume. We see these doubts seized upon by the spirited Kathy Selden, a serious actor whose value of traditional theatre is at odds with the pageantry of cinema to which Don belongs. The meeting of these two characters sets into motion a series of events that deal with innovation, change, power and establishment all conveyed through well-choreographed dance numbers and musical routines.

Footlights’ production of Singin’ In The Rain delivers the same energy and charm first brought to us by Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in their 1952 romantic movie musical. We are familiar with the iconic framework that hollywood films from this period adhere to, and to which Singin’ in the Rain also seems to follow. We are comforted by the inevitable romance and happy ending we are promised but it simultaneously challenges the structures that lead us there.

Footlights’ production of Singin’ In The Rain delivers the same energy and charm first brought to us by Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds

Footlights demonstrates a “self-reflexive style of theatre” as stated in their program; an element which allows for both comedy and commentary to exist within the same space. The actors are aware that this is a retrospective production, in that the seemingly innovated technologies and creative arrangements are no longer novel. But this does not limit the production by any means; in fact this grants the production the freedom to play into nostalgia without being saccharine.

The show is vivid, captivating and without a dull moment. The theatricality of its Hollywood setting removes your need to suspend your disbelief. In an era where everyone wants to be on stage, of course people would be inclined to break into synchronised song and dance. The exaggerated characters and scenarios don’t detract from the genuine personality and emotion each role has to offer.

From knockout slapstick numbers such as Cosmo’s ‘Make ‘Em Laugh,’ to lengthy and polished ensemble performances, to elegant ballads such as ‘You were Meant for Me’ and ‘You Are My Lucky Star,’ this show has got it all. The entire cast showcases their hard work and skill in every aspect of the musical, which resulted in a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. This is not a show to miss.

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