Road Show, Menier Chocolate Factory, London
Singin' in the Rain, Festival Theatre, Chichester

Two brothers make their way from digging for pay dirt in Alaska to hobnobbing with the super-rich, in all-American style

Panning for gold is a cinch compared with getting a musical from first inkling to first night.

Stephen Sondheim has been sift-ing the rags-to-riches story of the real-life prospectors Wilson and Addison Mizner for 12 years, and the result is Road Show, being staged for the first time in Europe at the Menier Chocolate Factory, a favourite venue with the composer, who has been sitting in on previews.

Their father dead, the money gone, the Mizner brothers' true characters are exposed under the cold light of Alaska – as eager, pink-faced Addie painstakingly digs for gold, smooth-talking Willie, merely a gold-digger, slips camp and talks his way to instant wealth. By turns, the brothers hit and lose the jackpot with tireless ingenuity, dabbling in trade, sport, the stage, horses, the movies, marriage ... It is Addie's oversized collection of world souvenirs that inspires him to build a bigger house – and discover a talent for fantastical architecture. And so begins a property boom, to the rhythm of the Charleston, as the Roosevelts and Astors and Wanamakers vie for the most glamorous Xanadu.

To make a coherent whole of the many episodes of these volatile lives, collaborator, director and designer John Doyle contains the action between two banks of seating, the multitasking cast of 13 pinging to and fro like characters in a cartoon strip. And if the audience gets a little Wimbledon neck, it is compensated with lapfuls of dollar bills, as money flurries like tickertape over this vaudevillian parade. Key moments unfold on an ever-moving bedstead – death, love, journeys. Catherine Jayes directs the band and hearty ensemble singing, with Michael Jibson as Addie, David Bedella as Willie, and Jon Robyns as Addie's elegant, wealthy lover rattling through the numbers, among which, the love anthem "The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened" stands out. Road Show is a polished new sparkler in the Sondheim treasury, and maybe it's 18-carat, but it's certainly gold.

Plastic macs for the front row and a trough in the stage at Chichester Festival Theatre prepared us for a shower in Singin' in the Rain, but few could have expected the deluge that brings Act One to its spectacularly soggy end, Adam Cooper sploshing and galumphing with reckless glee. The title song and the bravura dance that Gene Kelly was said to have performed in one take in the original movie are the stuff of Hollywood legend. But here is Cooper, debonair as Astaire, racy as Kelly, "doing it in one take" every night. And, what's more, within moments of the show's second most demanding set piece, "Good Morning". That's classy.

Jonathan Church isn't holding back either, staging probably the greatest musical comedy film ever. Comden and Green's gags and set-up crank a little slowly for modern tastes, and we do not so easily ridicule an actress merely for having a Bronx accent, but, overall, the ultimate backstage musical holds up, 60 years on.

Designer Simon Higlett's Hollywood is sepia-tinted with an apricot blush, a fun factory where every gofer is a star-in-waiting, every errand an excuse to shimmy. With music from unseen players driving the action (musical director Robert Scott), Andrew Wright's sizzling choreography and a supporting cast on springs, the story unfolds of the crisis in silent movies that comes with the talkies (and here the sepia gives way to Technicolor, too). Cooper as matinée idol Don Lockwood, Daniel Crossley as cheeky chum Cosmo, and Scarlett Strallen as game girl Kathy Selden tap their way to a bright new dawn of elocution. Also on board are rubber-legged David Lucas as Don's diction coach, momentarily stealing the show in "Moses Supposes", and beguiling Ebony Molina, promising something a little hotter than wholesome Kathy has to offer in the dream sequence "Broadway Melody", while Katherine Kingsley's coarse Lina Lamont flounders in their wake.

Audiences have for centuries marvelled at the recreation on stage of something they would not look twice at outside, be it a horse and cart or a cloudburst. Knowing this, Church and company pull a giant stunt to close the show, and, not to spoil the surprise, suffice to say that the pakamacs come out again. I have seldom been so happy out of the sun.

'Road Show' (020-7378 1713 ) to 17 Sep; 'Singin' in the Rain' (01243 781312) to 10 Sep

Next Week:

Kate Bassett is drawn to Manchester by the mother of all performance art

Theatre Choice

The Pride, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Olivier-winner about tangled relationships and shifting attitudes to homosexuality, runs at Sheffield’s Crucible to 16 July, with Daniel Evans. James Cordon is having a farcical blast in One Man, Two Guvnors: a 1960s update of Carlo Goldoni, complete with skiffle band, at the NT in London to 26 July.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor