SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
I read the program's Director's Notes by Verity for Prairie Ground's "Singin' in the Rain" and tears came to my eyes. I could not say it any better than she has so I'm going to quote her (in part) here:
"Debbie Reynolds...was 18 when she was cast as Kathy in the film. She was a gymnast, not a dancer. The film was a challenge for her. She has said, 'Gene Kelly made me work so hard that I'd almost pass out trying to keep up.' She maintains, 'The two hardest things I ever did in my life are childbirth and "Singin' in the Rain".' She reported that after 14 hours of shooting the song and dance number 'Good Mornin',' when she took off her little blue shoes, her feet were bleeding from all the dancing. She also admitted that, 'He worked me hard, but he taught me so well...'
"Many of the students you will see tonight have worked harder than they ever imagined they could, to accomplish things that they might not have imagined themselves doing even a year ago. Kids who never danced are dazzling us with tap numbers. Kids who never sang have discovered their voices. Why have the worked so hard? For love -- love of the theatre, love of each other, of this remarkable process -- this work, and for friendships and memories that will last the rest of their lives. It has been my great privilege to teach and direct them and to witness that love grow."
|Ashlee Waldbauer as Kathy Seldon and Nick Hulscher as Don Lockwood.|
It is the school district's own student star power that make this production worth seeing. That and the delightful, enduring song and dance numbers. Not to mention the hilarious and expertly done film sequences by Jason Foster. Kudos Jason!
|Hoofing Hulscher, tapping to the title tune.|
Ashlee Waldbauer delightfully plays Kathy Seldon, Don's love interest. Her singing voice is truly lovely, very much like Reynolds, and spot on. She nailed the song "Good Mornin'" and performed her dance numbers with great aplomb. Plus she is pretty and expressive and her acting was top notch. In all these ways she reminds me of one of my favorite actresses: Amy Adams.
|Josh Snider as Cosmo.|
|Sarah Russell as Lina Lamont|
|Diana Ferar, (center) as the Sexy Green Lady;|
Austin Foley (left) as Rod [or is it Mr. Big?].
Sycronization of Sound and Picture
While the costumes were stunningly glorious, the sparse sets were rather simple and sometimes dressed quite shabbily. They had the Hollywood glitz in the apparel, but it was not apparent in the set. Some pieces needed a touch-up from shabby (the piano, the ladder, etc.) to make them musical-quality chic. The excellent period hair and make-up was a real plus.
As mentioned, one of the best parts of the production was the well-conceived "film" sequences created by Jason Foster (please put them on YouTube). Well worth the price of admission alone.
There were some small technical glitches like lagging light cues and crackling mics on opening night. Most of the lighting issues could be corrected by using more standard fixtures to light scenes and not relying on followspots to perform the duty. However, most of the lighting was well conceived. The use of color-mixing fixtures on the cyc and the use of scrim with projection (especially the curtain warmer) were lovely. I also like the use of the stage wall in the title dance though I was hoping for a better rain effect.
The band, "prepared and conducted" by Greg McKelvey, was not prepared quite well enough evidently. The volume level was good, but there was a lot of "lippage slippage" around the right notes from the brass, so much so it was hard, at times, on the ears. This was not generally true for the vocalist (vocal and musical direction by Darcy Schmitt) both soloists and chorus who, in spite of a wavering band, stayed on melody.
A Happy Ending
|Featured Dancers in their flapper costumes. All photos by Michael Verity.|
The two high schools really have some great performers and I'm pretty sure Claire Verity, true* to her calling, loves her job. She seems to really pull a lot out of the teens she works with, inspiring them, encouraging them and pushing them to do their best.
*Verity, BTW, is Latin for truth.
This is truly a delightful production, directed with great love and homage, that you really MUST see.
Prairie/Ground Drama (the combined theater departments of Prairie and Battle Ground High Schools) offer "Singing in the Rain" at Prairie High School, 11500 N.E. 117th Ave., now through November 17. Show dates are 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, and 17. Curtain at 7 p.m., doors open at 6:30.
Tickets and ticket information are available online at http://www.seatyourself.biz/prairiehighschool.
By Gregory E. Zschomler
All photos by Michael Verity, provided