Kevin Clifton To “Make ‘Em Laugh” as Singin’ In The Rain Plays Wales Millennium Centre

Jonathan Church’s critically acclaimed production of Singin’ in the Rain is set to make a splash at Wales Millennium Centre from May 23-28.

Journey back to the glamour of Hollywood during the roaring 20s. Silent movie star Don Lockwood has it all, a string of hit films and a studio-engineered romance with the most beautiful actress in town.

What Don doesn’t know is that the silver screen is about to find its voice, and a chance meeting with a talented young chorus girl set to steal his heart promises to change both Don, and Hollywood, forever.

The splashing production features Sam Lips, Charlotte Gooch and Jenny Gayner, along with Strictly’s Kevin Clifton as ‘Cosmo Brown’.

Kevin Clifton recently discussed playing Cosmo in Singin’ In The Rain.

Strictly Come Dancing star Kevin Clifton had never tap danced before his role in Singin’ In The Rain.

What can audiences expect when they come see the show?

It’s such a wholesome, feel-good show and it’s a classic. Then in terms of spectacle it actually rains on stage. The first time I saw it I was blown away by it because I couldn’t imagine how they’d do that in a theatre. Now as a performer in the show, when we’re dancing in the rain and in the puddles on stage it’s magical.

Was Cosmo always on your wish-list of characters to play?

It’s not like I was going ‘One day I’ll play Cosmo’ because I didn’t think it was a possibility really, but I’ve always loved the character. I grew up watching the film and my Nan always had it on the TV. Then during Christmas 2020 when we were all stuck at home, me and my girlfriend decided to watch Singin’ in the Rain on TV. She had no idea what it was, and I was like ‘You’re joking!’ I got all excited telling her about it and the Make ’Em Laugh number that Donald O’Connor does as Cosmo. I must have watched that number once a month since I first got YouTube because I love it so much. I’ll stick it on randomly every now and again, and O’Connor himself has always been a massive inspiration.

What happened after you rewatched the film?

Stacey said ‘They should make a show out of this’, and I told her they already had. She went ‘Well, if they ever do it again, out of everything I’ve seen you do your perfect role is playing Cosmo’. I was like ‘That would be amazing, a dream come true’ but didn’t think any more of it. Then a few months later my agent called me and asked, ‘What do you think about auditioning for Cosmo in Singin’ in the Rain?’ It was a very happy coincidence.

It’s a very physical role. Do you need to be match fit for it?

I’m in good shape now and probably in better shape now than the last time I did it. I need to be in shape, just for that Make ’Em Laugh number alone. You’re throwing yourself all over the place and there’s a lot of energetic tap-dancing throughout the show too.

What’s the biggest challenge: Singing, dancing, or doing an American accent?

As mad as it sounds, it’s the dancing. I know everyone knows me as a dancer but before doing this show I’d never tap-danced before in my life. I had to learn from scratch. The proviso was ‘Must be an outstanding tapper’ and I wasn’t. I ordered some tap shoes and a board off Amazon during lockdown and practised at home. Then I ended up training with a teacher named Ryan Gover, who turned out to be the assistant dance captain on Singin’ in the Rain. Because of Covid restrictions he wasn’t allowed inside so we put the tap board in the garden, with him teaching me from a distance. Eventually I felt ready to go into the audition and finally got the part.

Is it daunting following in Donald O’Connor’s footsteps?

I guess so because the role is so iconic, as are the dance numbers. He was so brilliant in Make ’Em Laugh and I don’t know if anyone will ever be that good again. So it is a bit daunting but I just think of it as ‘This is my version of Cosmo Brown’ and accept the fact that no-one will ever be as good as Donald O’Connor.

It’s such a lovely and fun show, isn’t it? Is that what theatregoers are craving right now?

I think so, yes. A lot of these wholesome, romantic musicals came out after times of war or massive upheaval in the world because people wanted some escapism – all the Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire stuff. It feels the same now. With everything that’s gone on in the world with Covid and what’s happening now in Ukraine, I think audiences are craving a bit of loveliness and escapism. Singin’ in the Rain is the perfect show for that.

People know you best from Strictly Come Dancing, but did you always have an eye on a musical theatre career?

I’ve always been a huge musical theatre fan. When I was a little kid Mum and Dad took us on a trip from Grimsby down to London to see Cats and I fell in love with it. I did a bit of musical theatre before I did Strictly. Most of my life was as a competitive ballroom dancer but I left that scene to join the Burn the Floor dance company. I also did Dirty Dancing in the West End and, although it wasn’t a lead role, I loved being part of a cast and being on stage. Then Strictly happened in 2013 and just sort of took over everything, in a lovely and beautiful way. It was always my intention to return to musical theatre, so I did a lot of work on my singing and acting. I’m delighted how it’s all worked out.

Kevin Clifton and the Singin’ in the Rain company.

That said, do you miss being on Strictly?

I loved my time on Strictly but I’m happy with what I’m doing now. I enjoyed my seven years on the show, but I decided it was the right time to move on. Going back to theatre, as I say, was always my intention and my dream, and in the last couple of years of Strictly there were things I had to say no to because it took up so much of the year. I got to a point where I thought ‘If I don’t make the move now after these seven years then I never will’. I knew I had to make that jump and take that step out of my comfort zone. Everything has worked out nicely. It looked a bit sketchy for a while when Covid came along but it’s all great now.

Alongside your theatre career you also have your own podcast. Who would be your dream guest?

My idol is Robbie Williams. I love him as a performer. He’s amazing on stage and whenever I’ve listened to him in interviews, he’s very honest about everything. You don’t get standard answers from him.

Are any of the stops on the Singin’ in the Rain tour dear to your heart?

Liverpool is always a great crowd and Stacey’s mum lives over that way, so she’ll probably come along to see the show. And I have a tattoo on my foot that says, ‘I love Glasgow’. I danced with Susan Calman on Strictly in 2017, she’s from Glasgow and we used to train up there. When we were a few weeks away from the big Blackpool show, on It Takes Two Susan told Zoe Ball that if we made it to Blackpool, she’d get a tattoo done saying ‘I love Grimsby’ on her foot and I joked about getting one that said, ‘I love Glasgow’. After we did indeed make it to Blackpool I was on This Morning and, because Susan had gone ahead and gotten the tattoo, they’d arranged to whisk me to a tattoo parlour to get mine done live on TV. I was like ‘Go on then!’

  • Singin in The Rain runs at Wales Millennium Centre from May 23 – 28 2022. For ticket details visit: -Wales Millennium Centre’s website.

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