Only a brave director will try to reproduce on stage a phenomenal cinematic success such as Singin' in the Rain. Here, the courage of Joseph C Walsh has been rewarded by a production packed with style, talent and unashamed joy.
The dancing, and there is a lot of it, is a tribute to choreographer Debbie Kiernan. The vigorous band, conducted by Ronan Holohan, provides a refreshing immediacy to performances delivered by a cast confident in the knowledge that two-thirds of its audience will never have heard of Gene Kelly.
The absence of such Hollywood history means that the tedium of scene-setting has to be alleviated. Designer and costume supervisor Jessica Healy helps fill the occasional narrative gaps as the stars of the silent movies face the crisis of recorded voices. The importance of that big story fades under the fusillade of song-and-dance numbers written originally by Kelly, Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed for the 1952 MGM screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
The laughs incorporated by Comden and Green are nullified here by a slightly hit-and-miss approach to all but the visual comedy, which in itself is brightly effective. The show is also rich in melodies; Joshua Lay as Don and the acrobatic Blair Anderson as his pal Cosmo tackle these with gusto, and although Lay sometimes takes the key of E Flat rather too literally, the pair deliver, as they might say, “the goods”.
Although adrift in her comic timing, Aisling Breen finds the excruciating nasal whine to properly demonise fading celebrity Lina Lamont without diminishing her pathos. Romantic lead Charlie Martin (as Cathy) sings beautifully despite a brassy quality to her speech that dulls the vital contrast between Cathy and Lina.
As usual, however, there is only one real star of the show, and rainman Don Humphreys makes two appearances: his ebullient downpours give Joshua Lay his brightest if wettest moments, provide a brilliant finale, and justify the daring of director Walsh and of the patrons sitting in the front row. Until Aug 16