It's an iconic movie scene and song — legendary actor Gene Kelly swinging around street lamps, dancing and "singin' in the rain."
The 1952 film with that same title starring Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds is often referred to as "the greatest movie musical of all time," and so much so it was eventually adapted for the theatrical stage.
Now, schools can revive the songs, dancing and this romantic, comedic tale of Tinseltown during "Singin' in the Rain Jr." Students at St. Peter Interparish School are doing just that at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 14-16, at the Selinger Catholic Hospitality Center next to St. Peter Church, 216 Broadway St.
Each spring, music director Sara Denson tries to find a production that adheres to the soon-to-be departing eight-graders' talents, with Denson also directing the action-packed musical "Adventures of a Comic Book Artist" last year. In this case, eighth-grade students Ana Todd and Shane Whalen had been with the theatrical program for four years.
"I knew they were both strong singers. I felt like this would be the perfect show for them. It has a lot of the same songs and energy, and the same basic plot, just condensed a bit. It is a lot of fun," Denson said "I knew Shane's voice and Ana's voice and sweet personality were a great match for this. Shane has that voice when he sings where he has that 1920/1930s vibe about him."
Whalen's voice lends well to 1920s-era celebrity actor Don Lockwood, one of Gene Kelly's most well-known characters in his own acting career. Lockwood and Lina Lamont are a hot item in the silent movies, but their behind-the-scenes relationship is not so romantic, at least for Lockwood. However, when their latest film is being turned into a new "talking" picture, Lockwood has no problem with dancing and singing capabilities. Lina's squeaky voice and lack of rhythm prompts Lockwood and his best friend Cosmo Brown, played by Hayden Kennison, to seek out a talented young actress to do the talking, singing and dancing for her. Enter Kathy Selden, played by Todd, who originally had prepared her audition for Lina Lamont.
"I made sure to watch a couple scenes of Lina singing to match her voice. I got callbacks for Kathy but I didn't know how to do Kathy. With Lina's character, I liked how she was so ignorant. She knew she was ignorant, but she did have fun with it even though everyone is bringing her down. She still (was positive). That is how I try to live my life," Todd said of the lead character she originally auditioned for. "When I get to Kathy, I saw how she is confident and strong and she was willing to do anything and she was a daredevil. I'm sort of that way, too. So I feel like I am both of them mixed together I wasn't expecting it, but I'm so happy I got Kathy."
A love develops between Lockwood and Selden, which makes Lamont, played by eighth-grader Lily Schuman jealous. Schuman often delivers a good chunk of the comedy in the musical, as her voice and characteristics make for a great counter-balance to the budding romance between Lockwood and Selden.
"I do a lot of voices all the time with my friends. It wasn't too hard to do that annoying, squeaky voice and accent for Lina; it's much like a New Jersey accent," Schuman added, noting she has only been involved in a Capital City Productions theater camp last summer. "It's been a lot of fun doing this musical, and everybody is really nice and friendly to each other. I'm sad it is ending, but I'm excited to perform it out to the community."
Audiences will enjoy the shortened tale and many familiar songs and dance numbers like "Lucky Star," "Make 'Em Laugh," "Good Morning" and the title tune during "Singin' in the Rain Jr." With about 35 students participating both on, back and off stage as part of the cast and crew, Denson sees why having a theater program at St. Peter's is so important.
"I got involved in it when my kids were in it; my sons are now 20 and 17. My older son was a performer, where my younger son was very shy and loved to do a lot of the behind the scenes things. I saw them grow in maturity and how it challenged them to build organization, leadership and stage presence. If you instill that at this age, it will help them when they get to high school," Denson said, adding she was involved in theater in college. "When they get there, you can tell how much more they are doing and thinking because of what they learned in theater. Having seen my own children benefit from it, I want other parents' children to benefit from it and experience it, too."
"Singin' in the Rain Jr." will be at 7 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday at the Selinger Center. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for students and free for preschool-aged children. Tickets are also available at the door.