Thursday, November 18, 2010

Go See Singin' in the Rain at UAA

You really should get to the University of Alaska Anchorage production of the classic musical comedy, Singin' in the Rain. It runs through December 5th.

I attended the preview night dress rehearsal's first act this evening. The tech crew and members of the theater and dance department have been stringing water hoses and other prop stuff in the hall outside my office for weeks. The kids in the production have been getting more pumped for days, getting their tap dancing moves down all over the Fine Arts building. It is the most tech heavy production the UAA Theater-Dance Department has ever attempted.

This is such a rich, juicy musical that even attempting it with students is pretty risky. But director Fran Lautenberger's faith in the students is paying off.


What were the risks?

Tap dancing. Few of the leads could. They learned. With panache.

The film scenes. The play is closely based on the original movie, which requires a series of silent and early talkie films. What we get at UAA are hilariously funny replicas of those in the big screen model. The audience was almost hysterical at times. Kudos to Cedar Cussins for her short masterpieces.

Dance ensembles. More than one choreographer was involved, because of the various techniques, but they blend fairly seamlessly.

Comedy. This is a play about the transition from Vaudeville to early film to talkies. In Vaudeville, the comedians would interact with the audience. In the movie, this was impossible to do. Lautenberger has brought that element back into play, as the players use the intimate, vertical spaces of UAA's theater to bring the action, including many gags, right into the faces of the audience.

Chemistry. Part of the reason the movie was such a hit was that the fake relationship between silent stars Lockwood and Lamont is eclipsed by the real and budding relationship between Lockwood and Kathy Selden. The movie's stars, Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds pretty much own this role. But Alex Pierce and Sarah Shoemaker have acquired a whole sheaf of shares in it with their portrayal of this rocky love affair.

It's hard to compete with a movie musical icon. Two numbers in the first act, though - Good Morning!! and Moses Supposes have enough originality in their UAA versions to give totally new life to the ideas brought forth almost 60 years ago in the movie.

Good job, kids!


Anonymous said...

Phil - when I saw the headline I first thought it was a movie showing of Singin in the Rain, which I first saw as a young tween at UAA back in the 1970's (does anyone else remember family movie nights they would hold where families and kids would show up with pillows and popcorn?) I fell IN LOVE with this fabulous musical, and still enjoy referencing it. Fact is, just an hour ago I was chatting with another Alaskan and saying that the silly, strange ending of the Miller campaign is like the end of Moses Supposes - when the lampshade and everything else in the room is heaped on top of Gene Kelly's sidekick.

Thanks for the heads up ~

Anonymous said...

Debbie Reynolds character's name is Kathy Selden, not Dora Bailey. Just a correction to the second to last paragraph about the "budding relationship between Lockwood and *Kathy Selden*".