Posts Tagged ‘period comedy’

This film, based on a Noel Coward play, stars Julie Andrews, as Lady Felicity Marshwood, who is upset to learn that her son, Lord Nigel (Edward Atterton) is engaged to be married to Hollywood film star Miranda Frayle (Jeanne Tripplehorn).  However, the situation soon becomes even more complicated when Nigel plans to bring Miranda to meet his aristocratic family, only for the family’s maid Moxie (Sophie Thompson), to announce that Miranda is in fact her sister!  Throw in Miranda’s co-star and former lover Don Lucas (William Baldwin) who is coming to England to try and stop the marriage, and Colin Firth and Stephen Fry as respectively Nigel’s cousin Peter, and the family butler Crestwell, and the stage is set for a fine comedy!

I loved this film – it did remind me somewhat of another Noel Coward adaptation – Easy Virtue, which like Relative Values, also starred Colin Firth, and which also featured the son of an upper-crust English family bringing his vivacious American girlfriend to meet his relatives, but the films play out quite differently (I loved easy Virtue too).

All the cast were excellent – in particular, Thompson, Andrews and Firth.  Stephen Fry was playing a role which could have been written for him, and although he is one of the supporting rather than main cast members, he certainly makes the most of his screen time.  Baldwin is also very funny as the often drunk Lucas, who throws a spanner in the works of Miranda’s plan to transform herself from a starlet to a Lady of the Manor.  And Moxie, who is transformed from a maid, into a wealthy family friend (so that Miranda won’t recognise her) is the centre of one of the funniest scenes, when Moxie gets drunk to try and overcome her fear at meeting her sister who she hasn’t seen for some 20 years.  Colin Firth is just adorable as Peter – it could have been a nothing role in the wrong actor’s hands, but Firth is perfect.

The plot itself is rather daft – why didn’t they just tell Miranda that her sister was working for the family, rather than try and cover up the fact (and surely Miranda would have recognised her own sister!), but I think that it’s just something that you need to go with, accept, and enjoy.  Overall, this was a very funny and hugely delightful film.  At just under one and a half hours, it never gets boring, the cast is top-notch, and I would certainly recommend it.

Year of release: 2000

Director: Eric Styles

Producers: Steve Christian, Alex Harakis, Chris Harris, Fabio Chino Quaradeghini, Francesca Barra, Maud Nadler, Alex Swan, Christopher Milburn, Paul Rattigan, Michael Walker

Writers: Noel Coward (play), Paul Rattigan, Michael Walker

Main cast: Julie Andrews, Sophie Thompson, Colin Firth, William Baldwin, Edward Atterton, Stephen Fry, Jeanne Tripplehorn

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I saw this show at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, on 23rd February 2013.

Singin’ In The Rain is one of my very favourite films, and Gene Kelly is also a favourite actor of mine, so the show had a lot to live up to.  And it did!  The show was a delight from start to finish.

The storyline – for anyone who doesn’t know it – concerns the switch from silent movies to ‘talkies’ and actually deals with a problem that was experienced by many silent film stars; when the talkies came in, the audience realised that their voice did not match the on-screen glamour, and a few careers ended because of it.  Also part of the story is the romance between famous film-star Don Lockwood and up-and-coming actress Kathy Selden, which is thwarted by the jealousy of Don’s on-screen partner, Lina Lamont.  And mainly of course, there is that mesmerising, breathtaking dancing.

In this production, Don Lockwood was played by Adam Cooper, a man physically very different to Gene Kelly, but who played the part well.  Cooper is a beautiful and elegant dancer, and his dancing sequences were a joy to watch.  My personal favourite was Good Morning, where he was accompanied by Louise Bowden as Kathy, and Stephane Anelli as Cosmo (Don’s childhood and lifelong friend).  The squeaky voiced and vindictive Lina was played with relish by Jennifer Ellison, who was very funny, if occasionally just a little too shrieky, even for Lina!  Actually for me, Stephane Anelli was the star of the production, playing Cosmo with just the right mixture of mischief and melancholy.

The staging was elaborate and wonderfully creative.  There were just a few changes to the film storyline, at least some of which were probably necessitated by the restrictions of performing on stage (for example in the film, Don meets Kathy when he leaps into her open-topped car; here, he meets her while she waits at a bus stop), but overall the storyline is faithful to the iconic film.

An added piece of genius where the film segments, where we see the actors in the roles that they are playing within the play, with all of their period costumes and props, and – hilariously – the problems they encounter when trying to film sound as well as vision.

As ever, the dancing was a joy to watch, and obviously the highlight of the show.  The title number was exuberant and energetic, even if the first few rows of the audience did get soaked!

Well worth watching – I imagine this show will be playing for along time, and I would recommend it to any fans of the film, or indeed any fans of happy musicals!

(For more information about this production, please click here.)


Click here for my review of the 1952 film.

Click here for my review of the book ‘Singin’ In The Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece’ by Earl J. Hess and Prathiba A. Dabholkar.


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