It was back to the 1920s at Thornden School last week.
I don’t mean that slates and the 3 R’s were reintroduced, or that poor performance in class was admonished with a cane across the hand.
No, I mean that this was the decade in which the school’s summer performance of “Singing in the Rain” is set.
The underlying story tells how the silent movie stars cope with the change from silent movies to “talkies”. This storyline gives great comedy potential such as an intentionally ham-acted silent movie sequence, problems with the sound recording during a scene shoot, and a badly-dubbed first attempt at a talking film.
As we expect from Thornden School productions, the theme of the play crept out into the foyer. We were greeted with Charlie Chaplin styled programme and raffle sellers, and to a ceiling decorated with colourful balloons.
From the start, the main characters held the stage as their own, and interacted well with each other – are you sure these actors are only schoolchildren? Their stage presence suggested a much greater age and acting experience.
I hope it’s not giving too much of the plot away if I say that one of the running themes is that Lina Lamont doesn’t have a particular good accent and can’t sing at all (“good voice for silent movies” is how she might have been described). The actress gave what was possibly the best musical performance in demonstrating this – singing in tune is easy; singing off-key is difficult.
A production for the whole school to be proud of
The production provided some great song and dance routines – whether by the main characters, or the ensemble. In fact, there were two numbers I recognised, but hadn’t realised they came from this musical.
Having several ensemble numbers meant that a large cast could take part – a different group for each number. This is how a school production should be – a production for the whole school to take part in and be proud of. And however complicated the choreography was, the standard of the singing never diminished; every word of the song could be clearly heard.
Musical accompaniment was provided by more Thornden School pupils – and this time we were able to see the orchestra, positioned on a specially-built platform above the stage. A wonderful innovation – can we see more of this, please?
Yes – the rain was real
And we had real rain. Water sprayed down from above the stage during the well-known number. I’ll let you into a little secret here. Some years ago I had a backstage tour of a theatre where Singing in the Rain was being produced. Their rain machine was little more than a glorified shower. Thornden’s technical team topped this – rain really did fall from the unseen heavens.
As always with Thornden School productions, this was high quality entertainment, expertly delivered. A very enjoyable and entertaining evening out.
And no description of Singing in the Rain can be complete without this excerpt – guaranteed to brighten up your day.
Image credit: All photos via Joe North, Thornden Hall.
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