Review by David Munro
I MUST admit to a woeful ignorance of the productions by the
Barnes and Richmond Operatic Society, now the BROS Theatre Company
(BROS for short),which is a shame, as they have a remarkable record
of shows they have mounted, ranging from Gilbert and Sullivan
to Rodgers and Hart, picking up such lesser luminaries as Sandy
Wilson and Maltby and Shire along the way.
Their production of Singin' in the Rain came, therefore,
as a very pleasant shock. I must admit that the playing of the
overture caused me a few nasty moments, but thereafter it was
joy all the way.
As practically everyone knows, the plot of Singin' in the
Rain concerns the advent of sound, in Hollywood, and the careers
In the tradition of films of that period, little chorus girl
meets big star, they fall in love and his attempts to groom her
for stardom are nearly thwarted by his bird-brained but vicious
This stereo-typed plot is ornamented with a series of songs
by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, selected from films of the
Thirties and later - most of which were standards in their time,
although, had it not been for the film, would have been forgotten
Betty Comden and Adolph Green, successful Broadway playwrights,
scripted the film and they have adapted their film script for
the stage. This is what BROS chose to delight us with last night.
And a delight it is, the staging of the numbers, which benefited,
as do most Am Dram productions, from a large chorus captured the
flavour of the early Film Musical perfectly.
In particular, I enjoyed Beautiful Girl, beautifully sung
by Billy Conway, who could have substituted admirably for Dick
Powell, or Nick Lucas, or, in fact, for practically any other
tenor in a Busby Berkeley musical, and which was danced by a bevy
of girls whose grace and talent equalled that of the chorines
of the period.
The lead, Don Lockwood, was played by Bryan Cardus, who, although
he resembled Gene Hackman rather than Gene Kelly, proved himself
a more than adequate hoofer, and, in the two big numbers, the
title song and Broadway Rhythm dispelled memories of the
In fact, while the choreography of Singin' in the Rain
approximated that of the, by now hackneyed film version, he made
it his own, with a zest and sense of humour which, to me ,was
more charming than Gene Kelly's over-professional expertise.
He also has a strong voice, which he used to great effect in
both the love songs and the comedy numbers.
As Kathy Selden, the part that made a star of Debbie Reynolds,
Hannah Rogers looked charming and danced well, but I thought her
voice was tired, particularly during the second act in the scenes
where she dubs the voice of Lina Lamont, Don's vindictive co-star.
Lina, herself, is a gift for any comedienne and Maria Waters
grabbed it with both hands and squeezed every ounce of humour
from the part.
She got, deservedly, an enthusiastic round of applause for her
rendition of What's Wrong With Me, as she realises her
world is crumbling about her.
Although Lina is a part it is very easy to exaggerate, with its
Bronx accent and the gold-digger outlook on life, Ms Waters avoided
the traps and made a very amusing, yet rounded, character out
For purpose of plot, Don Lockwood has a humorous sidekick/friend,
Originally sung and danced by Donald O'Connor, it is here played
By Jeff Chinappen, who also makes the part his own, and while
being very funny avoids the mugging which marred Donald O'Connor's
While not so technically secure a dancer as O'Connor, he none
the less dances very well and got well-deserved applause for his
Be A Clown routine.
The rest of the characters are ciphers or caricatures, the head
of the studio, the director, the radio announcer, the voice coaches,
etc but Charles Halford, John Nugent, Lizzie Brignall, Denise
Truscott and Edz Barrett all justified their moments in the limelight.
Edz Barrett, in particular, more than held his own in the song
and dance Moses Supposes, with Bryan Cardus and Jeff Chinappen
proving you don't have to be a principal to be a very creditable
And this, I think, sums up my feeling for all the cast members,
they were bright, efficient and a strong supporting team, any
of whom could have stepped into the lead in the traditional manner
and become a star.
As I have already inferred, the choreography is an integral part
of the piece and this was imaginatively staged by Sharon Baker,
who succeeded in imparting the right period flavour to her dances
and ensembles, without ever falling into the trap of Pastiche.
The same applies to the director, Rachel Moorhead, who kept the
action tight and developed the humour and parody of the plot with
consummate skill, which resulted in a production that could hold
its own against any now playing in the West End.
The only thing that sounded a discordant note (if you will pardon
the pun) was the orchestra, under the direction of William Morris.
They seemed under-rehearsed but, possibly, this will have been
rectified during the course of the week.
This slight cavil apart, I must congratulate BROS on a very handsome
and well-conceived production, and one I would gladly go and see
again. I await their next one with eager anticipation.
Perhaps they could revive one of the old Stanley Lupino musicals
from the Thirties. Bryan Cardus could assume his mantle with ease.
Singin' in the Rain, adapted by Betty Comden and Adolph Green,
from their film script. Lyricist, Nacio Herb Brown; Composer,
Arthur Freed; Director, Rachel Moorhead; Costume Designer, Suzy
Deal; Choreographer, Sharon Baker; Lighting, Edward Pagett; Sound,
Stuart Vaughan; Musical Director, William Morris.
WITH: Bryan Cardus; Hannah Rogers; Jeff Chinappen; Maria Waters;
Charles Halford; John Nugent; Billy Conway; Lizzie Brignall; Anthony
Chalmers; Sarah Trotman; Denise Truscott; Edz Barrett; Jake Herbert;
David Stratford; Luke Bromley; Kurt Glading; Gavin Morgan; Bob
Salter; Hattie Hahn; Mark Burgess; Howard Cowlett; Terrie Creswell;
Suzy Deal; Louise Delany; Sheila Donovan; Katie Gagen; Anna Hadfield;
Chris Morris; Lynne Shirley; Janet Simpson; Hazel Wellcome; Alan
Whitmore; Faye Rogers; Clare Burgess; Sarah Cantrill; Lucy Clement;
Jan Croxson; Claire Griffith; Cathy Makepeace; Lisa Rose; Caroline
Produced by BROS Theatre Company at Richmond Theatre, The Little
Green , Richmond, Surrey.
Box Office: 020 8940 0088