Following a sold-out critically acclaimed tenure at the Chichester Festival Theatre last year, Singin' In The Rain's transfer to the Palace Theatre has been wowing audiences since February. Taking on the roles immortalised in the 1952 film version by Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, we spoke to West End stalwarts Adam Cooper and Scarlett Strallen about this snappy re-imagining of the MGM classic.
There's always been a lot of love for the original movie version of Singin' In The Rain, still hailed as one of the greatest musicals of all time. We assume you are both fans?
Adam: Absolutely, me and my brother used to pretend to be Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire as kids and dance around our house for hours, Singin' In The Rain was one of the most copied when I was playing Gene!
Scarlett: How can you not love it, it has absolutely everything.
The show's story and upbeat feel harks back to a more innocent time. Do you think that's one of the reasons why it connects so well with an audience?
Scarlett: I think that the period it’s set has a lot to do with it. There’s a glamour and charm to the way the story is told within the 1920’s context which transports audiences to another world.
Adam: The story is so strong, there’s a real beginning, middle and end to it, and add in fantastic song and dance and I think that’s the key. The visual beauty of its setting does no harm either!
Adam, Gene Kelly's are pretty tough shoes to fill. How do you make such an iconic role so heavily connected to someone else your own?
Adam: You have to put him aside, amazing though he was. I’m totally aware that it’s one of his most iconic roles but I was clear, as were our Director and Choreographer, that this would be a new production and a new interpretation of the Don Lockwood character. I think we’ve achieved it.
The show had phenomenal success at the Chichester Festival before transferring to the Palace. How does its current home lend itself to the production?
Adam: Beautifully I hope, we certainly feel very at home. To be honest the whole thing has been a dream. We had a great time in Chichester and knew we had something special, then to be sold out and hear that we were coming to town, it was a wonderful surprise. And here we are at the Palace Theatre, which for me personally is one of London’s most iconic theatres.
Scarlett: Obviously there we practical things to overcome, in Chichester we were on a thrust stage but at the Palace we’re behind a traditional proscenium arch. But our wonderful creative team have done a great job and Singin’ feels like it could live at the Palace for a long time to come! I’m having an absolute blast here.
The rain itself is such an memorable part of the film that of course it had to be part of the stageshow, and it does make for a stunning set piece. Was it a nightmare to get the effect just right?
Adam: Getting the floor right could be described as a nightmare. You have two problems, the rain effect itself, both in terms of how it falls from above and rises from below the set, but also the how we can dance on it safely. It took a long time to get it right but with the right shoes, and some specially imported American flooring, I’m very safe and in my element sending plumes of water into the audience every night.....when the rain is in full flow it’s really a sight to behold.
Tommy Steele brought the show to the London Palladium in the 1980s but it wasn't a resounding success. Were the flaws in that production taken into account when this revival was being developed?
Scarlett: Our creative team have been pretty clear that this production is brand new. Of course there a moments of homage to the film, but we’ve all tried to bring a freshness and uniqueness to this version of the show, so I don’t feel any particular influence or pressure from previous stage productions.
Adam you are a dancer, choreographer and director - do you get equal pleasure from all of these oeuvres or does one hold a special place in your heart?
Adam: They’re all so different. I absolutely love performing, especially in a show like this where I really get to do it all. And the process of creating something as a Choreographer or Director is wonderful too, tough but wonderful. I don’t really have a grand plan, I just love to work on great shows, with great people. Clichéd though it is I’m very aware of how lucky I am to work in a field where I get paid to do something I genuinely love and keeps me creatively satisfied.
Are there any plans to tour this show in the future, either around the UK or overseas?
Scarlett: There’s absolutely talk of touring it and I know there’s interest from the US, Europe and further afield.....looks like Singin’ In The Rain is going to be around at least another 60 years!!
Singin' In The Rain is currently playing at the Palace Theatre until February 2013. Book tickets here