Happiness is a rollicking good musical – and they come no better nor more rollicking than the energy-charged Laughter in the Rain, now doing its world premiere tour around the provincial cities of the UK.
This is fun from go to whoa, getting audiences up on their feet clapping and singing along with a multi-talented cast that never allow the energy to flag for a single moment.
Laughter follows the latest trend of weaving the life stories of musical stars around an almost non-stop collection of their greatest hits. The focal point here is the turbulent career of singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka, the Brooklyn cab-driver’s son who won a scholaship to the Juilliard School of Music but preferred to put his talents to turning out No.1 hits.
A few among many of hits were Oh Carol, Breaking up Is Hard to Do, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Hey Little Devil, the doubly successful Amarillo and, of course, the show’s title piece.
After being a teenage rival to Elvis, he succumbed to the rise of the Beatles and the ‘British Invasion’ of the pop scene. He hit financial ruin but kept faith with his determination to write songs with depth and meaning. A return to success and fame came with a move to Britain and the support of Elton John.
All this is acted out with snappy “talk to the audience” moments from the cast and a scenic backdrop depicting highlights of the star’s career and framing a lively six-piece band.
This is an all-singing, all-dancing romp of a show that rattles along at a hectic pace from one show-stopping number to another. Wayne Smith (an ITV talent show winner) shines as Sedaka in both manner and voice and is supported by a cast of 12 singer-dancers who multi-task their way through two and a half hours of energetic foot-tapping, hand-clapping pleasure.
Producers Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield, who are also behind the compilation hit Dreamboats and Petticoats, have come up with a real winner that’s probably the best of its breed since Mamma Mia!