WE may complain about real rain when it drops on our heads, but, boy, do we love Singin' in the Rain. The proof of that lay in the packed audience at the opening night for SODS's production, the latest in many on the Southend stage. Singin' in the Rain emanates joie de vivre, and audiences return the love big time.

The most striking aspect of Nick Bright's version is the youth of its central performers, notably the 18-year-old Robert Maynard, as silent movie idol Don Lockwood (the part created by Gene Kelly). He is splendidly partnered by A-level student Ewan Dunlop as Cosmo, Don's old partner from vaudeville days.

I've no idea of the ages or A-level status of Kirsty Bone, as Don's true love, Kathy Selden, or Laura Mann as the dumb-blonde scheme Lina Lamont, but they both add to the sense of youthful elan. Laura is notably hilarious, particularly in her delivery of the comedy torch song What's Wrong With Me.

Yet SODS's veteran generation more than hold their own, notably in the shape of Jonny Buxton's studio boss and Les Cannon's old style movie-director.

This tale of the final days of Hollywood silent cinema is so familiar and so well loved that it hardly needs any innovative touches. But choreographer Sarah-Rose Dunn does add one element that gives even more pzazz to the show. The use of tap dancing, mastered impressively by the principals, is more widespread than any previous production I have seen. Some of the choreography for the chorus looks a mite unadventurous, but it all comes together for the famous rainswept title number.

Much fun is had with the use of film clips from the Lockwood/Lamont “movies”. Elsewhere, unfortunately, he black and white back-projections look drab and bargain basement. Still, who's thinking about backdrops when there is so to engage us onstage.

Singin' in the Rain

Palace Theatre, Westcliff

Nightly at 7.30pm until Sat Nov 25, mat Sat 2.30pm

Box office: 01702 351135