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Posts Tagged ‘Philip Bertioli’

In less than four years, Joseph Pitcher has made The Mill at Sonning an essential seasonal visit with sparkling productions of classic musicals – High Society, My Fair Lady, Guys & Dolls and now Singing in the Rain, which scales new heights, beating the West End at its own game in a 200 seat theatre.

This show started as a film in 1952 and didn’t reach the stage until 1983, in London first, with Tommy Steele. We’ve has two memorable productions since – a terrific West Yorkshire Playhouse production transferred to the Olivier stage almost 20 years ago, and a great Chichester transfer around ten years after that. They don’t come along often, though there’s another one due at Sadler’s Wells next year.

It’s set in 1927 as silent movies are about to give way to talkies, with all the ramifications that brings, particularly for silent movie stars whose voices may not suit. The star partnership of Don Lockwood & Lina Lamont is likely to be be a casualty because Lina squeaks and drawls rather than speaks and the elocution lessons are getting nowhere. She doesn’t of course see that, as she doesn’t see that her love for Don is unrequited; he has become besotted with budding actress Kathy Seldon. The studio decides to remake their recent film as a musical with Lina secretly dubbed by Kathy, but when Lina finds out she turns nasty and seeks revenge.

The score is packed full of great tunes, now standards, including All I do is dream of you, Make ‘em laugh, You are my lucky star, You were meant for me, Good mornin’ and of course the title song. The period means a gorgeous design aesthetic, with particularly fine costumes from Natalie Titchener, and there’s great use of projection. Ashley Nottingham’s choreography is as light as air, with some fantastic tap routines. You struggle to believe MD Francis Goodhand’s band is only a five-piece, as they do full justice to the score. Amongst the many staging highlights, we have a brilliant elocution lesson scene, a stylish Broadway Melody and a sexy duet between Don & Kathy. The title song is superbly done, with a lot of rain on a special stage, teasing the audience as they get sprinkled on, enough but not too much. It’s encore after the curtain call, with the whole company, ends the show on a huge fun high to send you home, in our case into the rain.

Philip Bertioli is superb as Don, great vocals, light on his feet and bucketloads of charm. He creates real empathy with the audience as he plays with them cheekily in the rain. Rebecca Jayne-Davies has a beautiful voice and just as much charm as Kathy, also moving with great grace. Sammy Kelly as Lina is very funny, delivering the squeaky voice and off-key vocals, but with a great transition to manipulator too. Brendan Cull is slick, funny and vocally very strong as Don’s sidekick Cosmo. I loved Russell Wilcox’s studio head R F Simpson, looking every inch the boss with what we now see as some rather unacceptable me too behaviour. They are supported by nine others in a faultless cast.

A delightful evening, a joy from beginning to end. I can’t wait for next year.

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