It’s somewhat fitting that South-West London is enclosed by a sea of umbrellas as we walk towards the Royal Albert Hall for the World Premiere of SINGIN IN THE RAIN with the original compositions meticulously reconstructed for the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra to perform live. Not everybody knows, but MGM destroyed all the original scores and music for many of their musicals and they now lie buried underneath some motorway nearby Hollywood. We now know this, and a bit more, because the film is introduced by none-other-than Patricia Ward Kelly, the widow of Gene Kelly, the star of SINGIN IN THE RAIN (among many others) and an absolute movie legend in his own right.
She also talks us through how Gene (who plays lead Don Lockwood) always wanted Debbie Reynolds in the main role as Kathy Selden, and despite her inexperience as a dancer, Gene Kelly choreographed specific routines around her and taught her as much as possible. Patricia Ward Kelly also wanted to reaffirm that Donald O’Connor (Cosmo Brown in the musical) was hugely admired by everyone around him, despite sometimes being underrated because he was considered more of a comic actor, Gene Kelly was inspired by his talents and often believed him to be the soul of SINGIN IN THE RAIN, as much as any other actor.
Now, here’s time to reveal a little secret, this is the first time I’ve seen the musical in full and was blown away that it’s been just over 60 years since it was first released, and how contemporary it still looks today. The 1952 film showed no signs of age and had been restored for this high-definition screening and graced the prestigious Royal Albert Hall effortlessly. Over the years, not only has SINGIN IN THE RAIN been described as one of the best films ever made, but it also tops the American Film Institute’s 100 Years of Musicals list and is currently 5th in the greatest American films ever made. It also sits faithfully in the top half of IMDb’s Top 250 films voted by the public and the whole experience showed me why, up to the point of genuine shivers with the title song ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, that resonates with charisma and recollection for any film lover. The sight of Gene Kelly dancing in the rain is a true cinematic moment that can be never outdone, it’ll also surprise you to know that he did it with a temperature of 104 degrees because at the time, he was suffering from an extreme fever which only goes to show, and prove, that the show must go on.
There must also be a final word for Neil Thomson, as he conducted the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra through the performance that made the experience even greater. A live orchestra is always a special sight to behold and these incredibly talented souls helped to bring even more life to the images on the big screen. They were rightly lauded with numerous rounds of applause throughout and four-times over at the close.
If you attended this weekend, then I’m sure you wouldn’t have regretted a single second of figuratively bathing in some of the greatest moments in the history of musical cinema and, to be fair, cinema itself; breathtakingly brilliant.
For more events at the Royal Albert Hall, visit their website directly for all the latest up-to-date news. To finish, I’ve also included a few shots from the show below, for your delectation…