As the UK suffers its wettest weather for 250 years, there’s no escape at the theatre – where a musical makes it rain for audiences twice every night.
More than 12,000 litres of water come pouring down from 12 sprinklers in the ceiling and flooding up from a tank beneath the stage which holds 3,000 litres.
The cast get thoroughly soaked every night – and so will audiences in the first few rows when the musical plays Birmingham Hippodrome this month.
The first six rows are being sold as the ‘splash zone’, with theatre-goers warned that they are likely to get wet.
Stage manager Stewart Stealey says: “For the last few weeks, we have been dealing with all this water on stage – and then we leave the theatre and it always seems to be raining.
“We do think ‘OK, I’ve had enough now’.”
There are two huge containers in the wings, each holding 4,000 litres of water. It takes four hours to heat one of them up to 30 degrees to rain down on the actors, to make it a slightly less uncomfortable experience.
The rest of the water is pumped up through gaps in the floorboards of the stage, made from recycled plastic bottles.
By the end of the number there’s about two inches of water on the stage, which the actors delight in kicking through and into the audience.
It is recycled and used again, after it has been treated five times using UV filters, chlorine and bromine to stop it spreading infections.
The 11-strong band play on a raised platform above the stage, instead of in the orchestra pit where they would get soaked.
The actor playing Don Lockwood gets thoroughly drenched when he performs the iconic song and dance routine to Singin’ In The Rain, twirling around a lamp-post in the park at the end of the first half.
The interval is then spent draining the water and cleaning up, in full view of the audience.
Then right at the end, the whole 24-strong cast appears with their umbrellas to get rained on.
“The show is a logistical nightmare to move on tour,” says Stewart.
“We are the biggest show on the road apart from The Lion King.
“But they stay in venues for about three months while we move on after three weeks.
“It takes two days to set the show up a new theatre, half a day of which is just organising the water. It’s the iconic part of the show but the hardest to control.
“It gets everywhere backstage. It’s a battle to stay dry.
“Some people want to buy tickets in the front rows because they enjoy getting wet. We have heard the rustling of macs as they get ready for the rain, and even the odd umbrella comes out, which we don’t encourage as it’s very annoying for the people sat behind.”
The cast never leave the stage area, swiftly swapping costumes in quick change areas in the wings.
Six local dressers, as well as the regular wardrobe department, are employed in each venue to help.
Within easy reach is a rail of towelling robes, so the cast can drop their soaked suits and start to dry off before going to their dressing rooms.
The costumes are immediately put in a “hot box”, an airing cupboard which dries them in four hours.
There are also around 40 umbrellas backstage and they have to replace about five a week because of the battering they take.
Don’s umbrella is red to stand out, while the rest are silver with different coloured linings.
Based on the 1952 film starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, Singin’ In The Rain is set in 1927 when silent movies were beginning to be overshadowed by “talkies”. They threatened to ruin the career of Lina Lamont (Faye Tozer), who is pretty but speaks in a high-pitched whine, and she can’t sing.
So Don has the idea of recording the much nicer voice of his girlfriend, chorus girl Kathy Selden, and dubbing it on.
The musical is funny, charming and packed with great songs like Good Morning, Make ‘Em Laugh, Moses Supposes and, of course, Singin’ In The Rain.
Unlike Lina, Faye has a great singing voice, which she displayed on the 20 million albums sold by Steps, who had 14 consecutive top five singles in the UK between 1997 and 2001.
The 38-year-old is married to second husband Michael Smith and they have a son Benjamin who is nearly five.
She smiles: “It was actually quite hard to sing badly. I kept subconsciously slipping in a nice note because I wanted people to know I could sing! But I got told off.
“It’s hard to hit all the wrong notes and not a harmony.
“Her speaking voice is tricky too. I had a diction coach to teach me a Brooklyn accent, then I went to a vocal coach to find a way of speaking in her pitch for eight shows a week that wouldn’t wreck my voice. It’s very unnatural and other Linas have developed nodules on their vocal chords, as it puts such a strain on them.
“I have to admit, when they approached me about joining Singin’ In The Rain, I thought they wanted me for the all-singing, all-dancing love interest Kathy.
“And I do get jealous of the rest of the cast, I would love to be able to belt out a song.
“But it’s great they wanted me to be funny instead. My son loves the bit where I get a cream pie in the face, it’s his favourite part!
“We said, if we’re going to do it, do it properly. I strive to get a white foamy beard on my face, then I know we’ve given good pie.
“They one part I have no problem with is miming in the silent movies. After five years of making pop videos, that’s easy!”
Steps reformed in 2012 for a tour and TV series, but Faye says: “We’re in limbo now.
“We had 10 years apart, then a fabulous 18 months together, but we all have our own lives and families now and live in totally different places – Lisa Scott-Lee lives in Dubai.
“But we’ve become much better friends through the reunion and talk more than we ever did. Our friendship is more important than singing together.”
* Singin’ In The Rain plays Birmingham Hippodrome from March 18 - April 5. For tickets ring 0844 338 5000 or go to www.birminghamhippodrome.com .