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LET IT ’RAIN’

for The Brooklyn Paper
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In 1952, Betty Comden and Adolph Green scripted, and lyricist Arthur Freed and composer Nacio Herb Brown supplied the score to one of MGM’s most beloved musicals, "Singing in the Rain." But the film was really a showcase for choreographer and co-director Gene Kelly (with Stanley Donen), who danced and sang his way into American hearts and film history.

In Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts’ Broadway Series production (onstage at Brooklyn College’s Whitman Theater on Nov. 23), Jason Guy plays the Gene Kelly role of romantic silent film star Don Lockwood.

"It’s one of the few shows that was a movie first and wasn’t even attempted onstage until the early ’80s," Guy told GO Brooklyn. "Twyla Tharp did the choreography. It was a huge flop on Broadway. It only ran for three months. I didn’t see the show myself. But from what others have said, I believe this was because it’s a stylized piece, and they tried to change too much."

Guy says that this new production will not repeat Tharp’s mistake.

"We’re, in effect, doing the movie," he says. "We’re only changing scenes when necessary. We needed to make certain adjustments in choreography because there are a lot of things that happen in the movie that you just can’t do onstage - like when Gene Kelly jumps into a limousine and they drive down the street."

In this production, the gaps in staging are filled in by song. Guy’s opening ballad is "You Stepped out of a Dream," a song that was cut from the movie.

But for the most part, choreographer Paula Sloan has re-staged Kelly’s original work and, as for the changes, "in most of the situations, no one will know," says Guy.

The plot of "Singing in the Rain" revolves around Hollywood itself. The time is 1927 - just as the film industry was making the transition from silent film to talkies. Although Lockwood is ready to make this transition, his partner, Lina Lamont, is not. Kathy Selden is called in to dub for Lamont’s shrill voice. In the end, she not only saves the film, but she also gets her man.

"’Singing in the Rain’ was already a period piece in 1952, so it doesn’t have to be updated," says Guy. "There was a tremendous amount of choreography that didn’t yet exist in 1927, but was put in 1952 to use the full spectrum of dance, especially in ’Broadway Melody,’ the 14-minute number that ends Act 2."

Of course, such an iconographic film does pose problems for an actor taking on the lead role.

"It’s all about balance - a bit of revisiting Kelly and a bit of what I bring to it," Guy says. "The big famous pictures, like Kelly standing on the lamppost or taking off his hat in the rain, these legendary moments, even if the audience doesn’t know them, they’ll recognize them when they see them. I don’t have to reinvent those moments. I just have to get into the right place and be as honest as I can be."

Guy assures that it does, indeed, rain on the stage - for four minutes with the help of "piping and hoses up above the stage."

"I get drenched," says Guy. "Fortunately, that’s right before intermission and I have 15 minutes to get dry."

Despite the drenching, Guy is exhilarated by the role.

"The play is a lot of work. I do nine dances and the longest I’m offstage is three and a half minutes," he says. "But it’s one of my favorite roles."

 

Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts presents "Singing in the Rain" on Nov. 23, at 2 pm, at the Whitman Theater on the campus of Brooklyn College, 2900 Campus Road at Hillel Place in Midwood, one block from the junction of Flatbush and Nostrand avenues. Tickets are $40. To order, call (718) 951-4500 or visit www.brooklyncenter.com.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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