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The curtain is up, the set has been dismantled and Redland Hall has returned to its usual end-of-term set-up. However, those who were lucky enough to watch the Singin' in the Rain production last week are still in awe of the creativity, talent and sheer brilliance witnessed on stage over its three-night run. For those who didn't make it to a performance, we are delighted to share the following review of this spectacular show with you.
From the first note of the overture to the final curtain call of Singin’ in the Rain, this uplifting show gave a ‘glorious feelin’’ to an audience of almost 1,200 people across the sold-out three nights of its run. Given the scrabble for tickets on Whats App, it could have played for many more. If you missed it, here's your chance to read all about it; if you were in the audience, read on and relive the total delight that this show delivered.
Singin' in the Rain, first conceived as a musical film in 1952 starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, tells the story of a film production company making the transition from silent movies to "talkies" in the 1920s. Last week, over 90 students at Redmaids' High presented the musical theatre version of this much-loved classic. We saw strong characterisation in the leading roles, committed and unconditional support from the ensemble cast, intricate choreography, spirited music, a never-ending series of ever more glorious costumes and, of course, rain.
The female leads in this show are character contrasts. Lina, played by Peggy B, is the posturing star, with a permanent pout and a swing in her hips; Beatrice P's Kathy is sincere, using smaller gestures to convey her confused feelings for Don as the plot gets underway. Cosmo, played by Mia S, is an accomplished storyteller, paving the way for Olivia H's Don, who holds the show together through strong relationships with everyone onstage. This is clearly a collaborative cast: the ensemble create convincing minor roles and slick crowds, and keep the pace engaging throughout.
Lina may be a silent movie star, but her voice doesn't make the grade for the talkies. Her rendition of "What's Wrong With Me", interjected with moments of recitative, was perfectly pitched, somewhere between character and caricature, drawing the humour out of the situation whilst conveying the notion that self-esteem is something well worth protecting. By contrast, Don's voice poured effortlessly into the auditorium, sending goosebumps with it, in "You Are My Lucky Star". This was a tender duet with Kathy, where the voices of Olivia and Beatrice came together as perfectly as the characters, who end the song in a simple and moving embrace. "Good Morning", sung by Don, Kathy and Cosmo, was another example of harmony in voices and staging - the sense of collaboration in this production really was extraordinary.
Choreographed by Olivia H and Angelina B, the range of movement was a key element in this hugely entertaining evening. Whether it was a gymnastic solo, an intimate duet or a show-stopping ensemble tap number filling the stage with concentric circles in a whirl of shimmering sequins, this cast danced their hearts out. The 20-strong orchestra fuelled each musical number with verve and passion, creating a sharp and shapely sound. Under the conductor's expert baton and watchful eye, the fusion of instrumentals, voice and action was seamless.
The filmed elements within the play, pre-recorded and projected onto an upstage screen, caused many a belly-laugh from the audience. Lina's antics with the microphone were executed with beautiful comic timing, and it's a real credit to the production team that the AV elements worked so well. The set design, with its replica cinema seats far right and left onstage, drew in the audience, inviting them to share the experience of the characters watching the film onstage. Painted backdrops and stage flats added to the period charm. Costume evoked the style of the 1920s in necklines and hemlines, accessories extended the idea of period and character, and thousands of sequins brought Hollywood to Bristol. Lighting, too, added memorable images to the visuals - the simplicity of the silhouetted Don and his umbrella, caught in a perfect circle by a follow spot, was breathtaking.
For the show's titular song, there was rain. Real rain. There was something cathartic about that rain. It streamed down on Don, washing away all thoughts other than his new-found love for Kathy. It washed away everything but the here and now for the audience, sharing this moment, revelling in the sheer delight of it. Blue washlight was reflected in the water, adding to the magic in a Disney-like effect. Luckily, on a practical level the rain ran into a gutter, created by building a false floor to the stage area, a further credit to the skills of the production team. The rain had a reprise at the end of Act 2, bouncing off the fluorescent yellow mackintoshes of the entire cast. This time, as it fell, it heralded the beginning of the end of the performance. We didn't want the rain, or the show, to end. But it did.
The cast took their final curtain call to whoops, whistles and a full-house standing ovation on this, the final night of their too-short, three-night run. As one or two pairs of eyes filled up onstage, we in the audience found our own eyes following suit, as we suddenly remembered that these were teenagers, and that this was a school show. It doesn't seem credible that this young cast and crew, alongside study and sport and the myriad of other things that they all do, produced something so special. In the best of school traditions, a few short words of thanks were given by the girls paying particular tribute to Ms McCormack and Mrs Harrison for directing such a spectacular production. Their appreciation of each other, their understanding of hard work, craft, skill, teamwork, professionalism and the joy that these things bring, was humbling. For Olivia, credited by her fellow performers as the lead both on and off stage - encouraging, determined and inspirational - this was her final show: she will leave school in July to begin her career at drama school in September.
As the stage lights dimmed and the house lights brought us all back to reality, the aspiration of the girls in the audience was palpable. Just as the stage had shimmered and tingled all evening, now the auditorium fizzed. For the younger girls, particularly those in Years 6 and 7, for whom the opportunity to get involved and be a part of this overwhelming experience is just around the corner, the annual shows will go on.
Head, Paul Dwyer commended all staff and students involved in the show saying, "so many hours of planning and preparation by staff and students alike went into making the show the absolute triumph that it was. We have been bowled over by the kind words and praise for Singin' in the Rain. It has been a true showcase of the talents of our students, and the hard work and support from so many staff over so many months. A huge thank you to the Music and Drama departments for once again creating a masterpiece."
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