Monday, 5 November 2012

Singin' in the Rain

No rain - but a vintage umbrella! And water, though it just happened to be in the lakes rather than falling from clouds. My homage to Singin' in the Rain was composed of a vintage, fringed dress recently brought from the fantastic Oxfam branch in Camden, a sash from the dressing up box, shoes from a flea market and a swan brooch from my mum. My hair, thank goodness, was only temporarily bobbed - pinned up at the back to create a 1920s style look. 

“I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain, what a glorious feeling, I’m happy again!”
The first time I watched Singin’ in the Rain I was lying in a hospital bed about five days after spinal surgery. For small, sweet moments I was transported – the agony in my back reduced to a dull ache as I focused on the highly intricate movement of feet or the flash of sequins. But other sequences were just blurs of colour as I sank back into my pillow, unable to keep up with the fast paced numbers. Finding the film for the first time during such uncertainty and pain meant that it remains in my head as a completely vivid hour or two. Blame it on the morphine if you will, but to me this cinematic delight remains elevated to technicolour heights of glory: bright costumes, sets and voices ringing through my mind.

I’ve watched it many times since - reveling in the umbrella twirling, puddle splashing and spectacular high kicks. From Cyd Charis’ sensuous solo during ‘Broadway Melody’ to Donald O’Connor’s comedic and extraordinarily performance in ‘Make Em Laugh’, each number demonstrates equal skill and beauty. I jokingly claim that I’m a failed ballet dancer at heart, so maybe this accounts for my fascination, but there’s something very special about witnessing the way that humans manipulate their bodies through dance. Whether the mood is one of elegance, drama or slapstick, the accomplished dancer expresses something almost beyond words. They draw the audience in, each extended limb or curled hand like a comma beckoning our full attention. It’s another form of communication, spoken in movement.

Like any form of art, dance is characterized by a huge amount of hard graft and practice. Each perfect spin is the result of numerous failed attempts – in much the same way that the ideal novel builds upon all that has previously been written. ‘Perseverance’ is certainly a word that could have been extended to the cast of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. Gene Kelly performed the titular sequence with a high fever over two days, Debbie Reynolds’ feet bled after accomplishing ‘Good Morning’ and Donald O’Connor found himself in hospital on completion of ‘Make Em Laugh’.  But all we witness on screen is the end product, the culmination of many months’ work and perfectionism. We are offered escapism and enjoyment.

If some of those dance sequences took two weeks to film, then I can only imagine how exhausted the performers are at the end of each night of the stage adaptation. I was recently invited to see the version currently playing at the Palace Theatre in the West End, London, taking my friend Merlin. He was a ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ first timer; I was keen to see how the narrative transitioned from screen to stage. Producing a theatrical version of a much loved film makes sense commercially, but can be tricky creatively. How to recapture the original atmosphere without becoming a mere facsimile, a shadow? How to ensure that the actors retain the brilliance of on-screen predecessors without being mirror images? The answer, it seems, is to pay homage while still retaining individuality. Ensemble dances, outfits and the order of events were all tailored to the stage, while filmed sequences momentarily transformed the theatre into a cinema. Katherine Kingsley’s Lina Lamont was pure high camp – all diamante and nasal whining – while the main trio played off each other’s energy to thrilling, glorious effect.

But even though reviews had built up my expectation of the rainstorm sequence, the visual impact of watching 14,000 litres of water pouring over the heads of the performers below was simply jubilant.  Although this water is recycled every night, I noticed a fair few puddles' worth flicked in the audience’s direction (the front few rows of the stalls were furnished with rain capes!)

We left the theatre floating on the afterglow of song and dance and walked along Regents Street, shop windows and streetlamps lighting our way. Those moments after the performance, when the last dregs of colour and spectacle were still clinging to our clothes were really quite wonderful, ones to be celebrated and cherished –  moments of being utterly alive.

It wasn’t raining that night, only a faint mist of drizzle settling across London. A shame really. There’s something very raw about tilting your face up towards the sky as it pours. It’s a liberation –  revelling in getting drenched, in demonstrating (and more importantly, feeling) a sense of recklessness. It’s not so much singing in the rain but dancing in the rain that appeals to me. Perhaps it’s just a childish delight akin to squelching through mud or returning home covered in grass stains, but if so then I’m glad that the euphoria of such an activity is never lost.

Singin' in the Rain is on at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London. You can see details on their website here. Big thanks to Frankie at Premier Communications for such a lovely night out. 



Emalina said...

What a beautiful blue that dress is, it works so well with your sash and shoes. Gorgeous post.

I've only recently started my blog, do come see me in some vintage Biba.


L'age moyen said...

Singing in the Rain is one of the all-time greats. Makes me want to tap dance. You're wearing one of my other all-time favourites - blue/red combo. It's such a vibrant combination.

Jean at said...

Believe it or not, I've never seen the film. Now I know that I must!! I'm glad to know the stage adaptation was also enjoyable. I love dance as an art form. It's not at all in my skill set, so maybe I appreciate it that much more!

Your lovely, moody photos are a delight. I love the nod to another era.

Bea W. said...

I love the outfit, the blue, grey and coral are great together. Stunning pictures! I am still new to your blog but like it very much already.

Bea W. said...

I love the outfit, the blue, grey and coral are great together. Stunning pictures! I am still new to your blog but like it very much already.

Pilgrim at Kerjacob said...

I am reminded of 50 years ago when I went with a boyfriend to see the film of West Side Story.
It was so exciting, so new.
We came out of the cinema to the night lights of the centre of Liverpool and danced our way back to the bus stop.
Good memories still there after 50 years.

Again a lovely piece of writing Ros.

Diane. x

LaFaMi said...

Boska stylizacja.
Pozdrawiam i zapraszam na

Vix said...

I've never seen the film either despite the promo poster being a standard fixture on every student's wall back in the 1980s.
Love that brolly, I have it's twin in red! x

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

One of my favorite films! Lovely photos!

daisychain said...

Oh I love singing in the rain, I used to watch it with my Nan over and over again before she passed.

I love the colours in your outfit, unexpected but they work so well.


Jen Hsieh said...

These are such stunning photos and I love the bright colors in the natural and dark setting. Gorgeous! The vintage umbrella is pretty awesome too.

I've actually never seen Singin' in the Rain but it's on my to-do list! :)


Bella Q said...

Great homage to a classic musical! And my collection of vintage umbrellas are now clamouring for an outting. Looking rad as usual, Roz.

Izzy/Bella said...

I'm catching up on your blog while watching the presidential returns come in (GO OBAMA!). This lovely little essay took my mind off the race. I loved this line in particular: They draw the audience in, each extended limb or curled hand like a comma beckoning our full attention.

And I agree: there is something alive-feeling about theater, nothing else like it. I went to see my first play in ages a few weeks ago, and I don't know why I don't see more. No excuse in a place like NYC. Thanks for reminding me of my vow :)



Such a classic musical, I remember the first time I saw it when I was younger. I'd love to see it on Broadway. I love your hair pinned up. Everyone should dance in the rain at least once! :) xo

The Cat Who Walked by Herself said...

Hi Rosalind
lovely photographs.The last one is especially brilliant.
Shall be watchin 'Singin in the Rain'
Ps-got hold of 'How to be a Woman'
and loved it.

Anonymous said...

This is such a lovely blogpost. I'm so in love with these photographs - Singing in the Rain sounds like such a fun, energetic film to watch and you're so lucky to have been able to view it in the theatre as well. Thanks for sharing all these photographs with us. Your outfit is stunning!

Anyway, you inspire me so much. I'm in awe of your amazing style of writing and how naturally words seem to come to you. I'm an aspiring fashion journalist just 2 years younger than you and I'm impressed by all your achievements and how talented you are at writing. I'm a new follower of your blog and will definitely be coming back for more. Have liked you on Facebook and followed you on Twitter as well .

Have an amazing day, love!

Love, Fatima (fashionpilgrim)
Twitter: @fashpilgrim
Instagram: @fashionpilgrim

Melanie said...

I love that musical. My housemate used to sing Good Mornin' all the time. Professionals always make the most difficult things seem easy - I guess it's that way with this movie too. I never knew the background stories. And how exhilarating that the stage production "rained"!

You have done a beautiful photo homage to this musical. I especially love the dreamy quality of the last photo. Who is she? Where is she going? Is she flying?

Marla said...

I love your pictures, they are brilliant and so beautiful.

Anupriya DG said...

You are right, there is something liberating about getting wet in the rain! And the smell of wet of my most favorite smells in the whole world! (Right up there with the smell of old books, new leather & paint)

And I'm going back again & again to that first picture, my dear's just SO beautiful!!! :)

Willow said...

While I have never seen the movie or any kind of production of it, I do enjoy the pleasure of singing "Singin' in the Rain" whilst kicking through puddles and twirling an umbrella (if only I had that gorgeous vintage umbrella of yours to do that with.)

What a wonderful experience that must have been! I was very relieved to read that all that water was recycled.
Dance is such an extraordinary thing, and it really is amazing to watch the way the human body can move.

Brilliant photos, such a great 20s look. You really suit that bob! (but I still prefer that stunning waist-length hair of yours.)
I'm so envious of all the backdrops you have for the photos on your blog - and of course, the clothes!

Fashionistable said...

Ahhh transported again by your words both to the movie (which I also love) and to imagining the water on the stage in the West End. Then there are the shots of you here, which lend a beautiful interpretation to your words. Xxxx

SabinePsynopsis said...

It's ages since I watched Singin' in the Rain... (I remember being so impressed when I learned he was actually running a high fever when they shot the scene)... and I very much agree - rain, especially warm, summery one, feels wonderful. On a different note - your photos are very beautiful. Love the tones and colours.

Lucie Srbová said...

I really love those pics! The first one is awesome!
Following you on GFC and Bloglovin!

Kisses, Lucy:)

Old Cow said...

It has been a while since last I visited your blog. I am glad I found the time to lurk here today. Your photos and words have inspired me once again!

Jackie Brown said...

Gorgeous choice of colours.

Jackie @ Minerva Collection UK Handbags&Jewellery

Kate Wyver said...

Beautiful photos, that last one with the reflection in the water is stunning. I loved Singing in the Rain, such a brilliant musical, it's impossible not to have fun!

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Oh, Singin' in the Rain is an absolute family favorite. I don't even remember how young I was when I saw it first, nor how many times I've seen it since and imitated every song and dance routine. In fact, I loved the movie so much that I was disappointed with the film, "The Artist" as not being anything original. (Add to that the fact that I love the Silent Era and found the female lead to be so unconvincing. Lena Lamont was a much better '20s femme fatale.)

Beautiful homage through your images and umbrella! And how lovely to know they are playing it on stage at the West End. The rain drops in the front row remind me of something awkwardly funny -- operatic spittle back when we had 2nd row seats! I would have wanted a rain cape for that too. :) -- J xxx

Maya Topadze Griggs (Soccer Mom Style) said...

I love how you started: no rain but a vintage umbrella. hahaha You look adorable as usual.

plz, check out my latest post with the Gene Kelly surprise at the end:

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