Justin Wilson dazzles as the suave Don LockwoodBen Nicholson

As a lifelong fan of the hit 1952 “talking picture”, I was slightly apprehensive about reviewing this show. It certainly had big shoes to fill: Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds left very little room for improvement. On the aptly rainy Wednesday night that Singin’ in the Rain opened at the ADC, I entered the theatre with a sense of trepidation, worried that this performance would never live up to my childhood memories of the beloved film. I was mistaken.

“The titular number featured umbrella choreography to rival Rihanna”

By the end of the first scene, I knew I was in for a great time. The set, designed by Annabelle York and Jonathan Powell, effectively used three levels to create a dynamic sense of busy movement as the first members of the ensemble took the stage. As the live band, operating under musical director Lily Blundell, began to play the overture, we were treated to a marvellous display of ballet and jazz dancing from the ensemble, which set the tone for the rest of the production.

The dance numbers are snappy and well-choreographedBen Nicholson

This is an incredibly dance-heavy show, but director and choreographer Lucy Thompson (with the help of assistant choreographers Arianna Muñoz, Poppy Maxwell, and Ffion Godwin) managed it beautifully. I was particularly impressed with the quality of the tap dancing. The titular number featured umbrella choreography to rival Rihanna, and the famous ‘Broadway Melody’ was punctuated by the clean, sharp sounds from the ensembles’ ever-moving feet. Every member of the ensemble, in fact, deserves praise. I wish I could name them all here, but there were simply so many of them! Despite their large numbers, the stage never felt crowded – doubtless a testament to the careful directing and choreography.

This production bursts with vibrant colourBen Nicholson

I can, however, single out the leads, and I will. Justin Wilson brought the suave Don Lockwood to life, and his buttery-smooth vocals matched the movie-star image perfectly. I particularly appreciated his departure from the film in his characterisation. Wilson’s Lockwood was every inch the ultra-cool celebrity we all know and love, but he also brought an unexpected emotional depth to the character. When he mused over Kathy Selden’s denunciation of his acting skills with his buddy Cosmo, I saw real concern and deflation. Rosie McLeish, meanwhile, did an outstanding job at taking Cosmo from the screen to the stage. Although some numbers were chaotic – I wished ’Make ’Em Laugh’ left a bit more space for McLeish’s vocals – her delivery of Cosmo’s spoken lines was consistently hilarious. Her commitment to physical comedy also didn’t go unnoticed. Speaking of comedy, Sophie Craddock absolutely shone as the villain of the show, Lina Lamont. If you were in the audience on opening night, you probably heard my cackles from the back of the auditorium. Her line delivery left me in stitches, and her sung soliloquy was even better. 

“It was potentially the best vocal performance I have ever seen on a Cambridge stage”

This brings me to the star of the show: Claire Lee Shenfield as Kathy. Although her first appearance was subdued, leaving me doubting whether she had the chops to fill the role of the spunky dancer, I was soon proven wrong. She relaxed into the role throughout the night, eventually finding her backbone. When she sang her first solo, ‘You’re My Lucky Star’, my jaw dropped. It was potentially the best vocal performance I have ever seen on a Cambridge stage. Her voice was clear, bright, and gorgeous. The chemistry she developed with Wilson’s Lockwood was also incredible. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her on the real silver screen.


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Beyond the great performances of the leads, the production was also technically perfect. The videographer, Olivia Railton, created some fantastic films of the actors that were played on projector screens throughout the performance, really immersing the audience in the world of Tinseltown. The set was effective, but also beautiful, featuring an intricately-painted backdrop of “Hollywoodland” behind the outdoor scenes and evocative interior pieces that created the Monumental Pictures studios, glitzy parties, and the red carpet. Sam Porter-Frakes’ lighting design complemented the beautiful sets, bringing the vibrant settings to life. The costumes, designed by Amy Meyer, were also impressive. Working with an assumedly tight budget, she managed to evoke the glamour of Hollywood without drowning the stage in sequins. The amazingly large production team have come together to create something truly show-stopping.

This production is, beyond anything, incredibly joyful. It’s colourful, it’s playful, and it’s a celebration of the beauty and excitement of showbiz. Of course, it’s not perfect, but it would almost be worse if it was. I liked its less-than-polished moments: they reminded me of the joy of amateur theatre-making. And, what you all came to this review for – yes, there is real rain, and yes, it is just as spectacular as you think it will be.

Singin’ in the Rain is playing at the ADC Theatre at 19:45 until the 26th of March, with additional matinee 14:30 performances on the 19th, 24th, and 26th.