Last Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of being a guest of the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, for a preview showing of their latest production, Singin' in the Rain. This particular musical has a special place in my heart as it featured heavily throughout my childhood and late teenage years (it officially kept me sane during A levels). The title song is instantly recognisable and has the power to turn any frown upside down. I was delighted to discover that Théatre du Châtelet's version of the musical stayed faithful to the MGM film version (released in 1952) whilst also injecting fresh ideas that made for a highly entertaining night out. The story takes place in Hollywood and follows the transition of the movie industry from silent cinema to "talkies". Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are stars of the screen, presented to their adoring public as a loved-up couple when in reality Don cannot stand Lina. We watch them struggle to keep up with the changing industry and see how they overcome their biggest challenge - Lina's grating voice and accent - which are sure to alienate their audience.
The Théâtre du Châtelet is located along the Seine, in the heart of Paris. It's an impressive theatre, featuring an opulent chandelier on the ceiling that your eyes are immediately drawn to and comfy mahogany seats which are very important when you're sat down for two hours or more. Under the direction of Jean-Luc Choplin the theatre has made huge efforts over the past decade to bring the American and English style of musicals to a French audience. And it appears that these efforts have been hugely successful. Highlights include Sweeney Todd (2011), West Side Story (2012) and An American in Paris (2014) which opens on Broadway this coming spring after its world premiere in Paris.
Not only did I have the film to compare the production to but I also had the West End version in mind, which I saw in 2012 with my sister and JB. Dan Burton as Don Lockwood certainly had very big shoes to fill but was suitably charismatic and more than held his own during the famous Singin in the Rain dance sequence. Daniel Crossley as Cosmo Brown hit the perfect balance of comedy and pathos, whilst Claire Halse, as Kathy Seldon, and Emma Kate Nelson, as Lina Lamont, had the audience riveted with their stellar performances (I was happy to see Lina had the audience in stitches).
The costumes were lavish and a closer representation of the 1920's, the decade in which the musical is set, unlike the film version which was heavily influenced by fashion trends of the 1950's, the decade in which it was filmed. The colour palette stuck to shades of black and white, to tie in with the theme of the black and white movies, with the exception of the modern Broadway melody dance sequence. Don't worry though, there were enough silver and sequins throughout to ensure that the show kept its razzmatazz. I particularly enjoyed the innovative use of the stage - for me it's important that it looks neither too bare nor too busy so I was happy to see props used wisely. The movie premieres were shown to us on a video projector screen which I found to be a particularly creative touch. I also enjoyed how the audience were invited to participate with the performers: we laughed along with Don and Cosmo at Lina, and cheered for our film idols at the movie premieres.
Thank you to the Théatre du Châtelet for inviting me to see this exciting production and providing me with some beautiful photos. As a city-subsidised theatre, I fully applaud their efforts to bring all productions to as wide an audience as possible. Tickets for the show range from 25 to 99 euros and you can find all booking information on their website. Overall I found the production to be fresh and innovative whilst staying true to the heart and soul of Singin in the Rain, and I would definitely go back to see it again with friends and JB.