You couldn’t make it up: the water supply fails at the South Bank on the day they’re performing Singin’ in the Rain. I guess you call that a dry-run. At any rate it was the first ever concert performance of the original film score – as restored by the ever-resourceful John Wilson and delivered with all the sheen and stylistic panache of a musician we’ve come to know as a hot-line to the source material. And as the title song zinged its way through the opening credits we even got the principal trio in yellow macs and brollies as though they’d popped off the original print in defiance of MGM’s bankruptcy.
Another nice touch was that the now familiar tale was told from the perspective of the one character whose mouth everyone wanted shut: the squeaky-voiced “queen” of the silents, Lina Lamont – as personified in all her excessive squawk and sparkle by the larger than life Kim Criswell. “Can’t act, can’t sing, can’t dance” – “a triple-threat” is how Cosmo Brown describes her in Betty Comden and Adolph Brown’s book and the fact that we know Criswell is still pretty hot in the first two categories only made the running gag land better.
We got a fair share of the dialogue – complete with underscoring that those Hollywood boys never imagined would see the inside of a concert hall. But then they didn’t reckon on John Wilson who even turned in an unexpected cameo as the studio’s dialogue coach, rolling his Rs and opening his vowels while Miss Lamont duly flattened them.
Casting was spot-on for type and style. Josh Prince, who gets 12/10 for effort in “Make ‘Em Laugh”, did everything but walk the wall in that number and his tap-dance break in “Moses Supposes” with five saxophones honking their encouragement was deservedly show-stopping. Then there was the lovely Annalene Beechey (Kathy Selden) whose rendition of “You are my Lucky Star” was just perfect: simple, heartfelt. And Julian Ovenden would be a dead ringer for Gene Kelly if he didn’t sing better than him. But the intonation was still uncanny and in that number, to say nothing of the fabulous “Broadway Melody” Ballet, the brassy vibrato of the trumpets (led by Wilson’s own Mike Lovatt) sounded momentarily like the Philharmonia had come incognito as the John Wilson Orchestra.