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‘Singin’ in the Rain’ splashes into Village Theatre in Issaquah
Washingtonians may feel downcast whenever the clouds let loose with their frequent showers, but after watching John David Scott as Hollywood star Don Lockwood dance through actual rain in Village Theatre’s “Singin’ in the Rain,” they just may feel like bursting into song the next time it pours.
Adapted from the 1952 Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds film, “Singin’ in the Rain” follows the story of Hollywood moviemakers learning to adjust to the advent of the “talkie” in the late 1920s.
When the screechy, Brooklyn-accented voice of Lockwood’s haughty co-star Lina Lamont (Jessica Skerritt) threatens to ruin his first talking film, “The Dueling Cavalier,” Lockwood and his musical partner Cosmo Brown (Gabriel Corey) hatch a plan to turn the film into a musical and dub the voice of newfound starlet Kathy Selden (Mallory King), who is also Lockwood’s secret fiancée, in for Lina’s.
Fans of the original musical film need not be apprehensive; the stage show — directed by Steve Tomkins, who most recently directed “Billy Elliot,” “No Way to Treat a Lady” and “Mary Poppins” at Village — contains all of the favorite songs, lines and laughs from the classic movie.
While the similarity to the film may be a relief for show goers, Scott, who is a Village veteran but has never before played a lead at the theatre, said that it made his job a little more intimidating.
“People are immediately going to compare me to Gene Kelly, and who can be Gene Kelly?” said Scott, a lifelong fan of the movie. “All I can do is pay homage to Gene Kelly while adding my own flair.”
The show is an ambitious feat, depicting a 1920s film crew creating a movie set in 1700s France, complete with sword fights and Rococo gowns. In the scenes where excerpts are shown from Lockwood’s movies, Village actually filmed black-and-white footage of the actors in eighteenth-century garb (with Seattle’s Paramount Theatre standing in for a Versailles-styled Hollywood film set). The showing of these videos onstage transforms the Village Theatre audience into the audience of Hollywood guests at Lockwood’s new film premiere, with the effect of everyone in the theatre feeling like they are a part of the show.
Scott said that making the films inside the play, which required him to do eight straight hours of sword fight choreography, was incredibly fun and surreal, causing him to forget he was in a musical set in the “Roaring ’20s.”
“You get swept up in the romantic epic-ness … it felt like a film set,” he said. “I started feeling like I was rehearsing for a swashbuckling Errol Flynn film.”
The plethora of historical costumes (124, to be exact) from both the 18th and
20th centuries, as well as the impeccable attention to their detail — the work of costume designer Cynthia Savage — are among the show’s most impressive and delightful features. Nearly every scene contains a new set of sparkling flapper dresses, swinging pearl necklaces and fedoras that brighten up the stage and thoroughly set the audience in the Jazz Age.
“The ’20s were a time of bootleg gin, dancing and ‘we’ll worry about the rest tomorrow,’” Savage said. She explained that the flappers’ bobbed hair, raised hemlines and straight-silhouetted dresses “were a total revolt to the curves of the 1890s — their mothers’ look.”
Savage also threw a splash of the 1950s into the 1920s costumes to recall the decade in which the Gene Kelly film was made.
Wearing costumes from so many different eras was “an actor’s dream,” Scott said.
And what might be an acting nightmare for some — three complex tap numbers, in addition to several other dances — came naturally for Scott, who has been tapping since the age of 8.
The key to memorizing so many different dances in just five weeks of rehearsals, according to Scott, is repetition until the moves become innate. Thinking about the moves would make him freeze, he said — his body simply needs to know what comes next.
“When you get it, there’s nothing more fun,” he said. “It’s all about the rhythm. Rhythm is contagious.”
And indeed, all of the practice pays off, rewarding audiences with what Scott called “the perfect blend of tap dance and Broadway musical theatre.” Whether by the ballet of “The Broadway Melody,” by seeing Scott, King and Corey cheerfully tap across the stage in the iconic number “Good Morning,” or by the hilarious slapstick antics of Corey in “Make ’Em Laugh,” audiences are sure to be charmed.
The real secret to the success of Village shows, according to Scott and Savage, is the way that everyone — whether on stage or behind the scenes — comes together as one to create a piece of artwork.
“Everybody works really hard in all the departments,” Scott said. “Village Theatre works as a unit, as a family. Everyone is really passionate about what they do … Village will always hold a special place in my heart.”
“Singin’ in the Rain” plays through Dec. 31 at Village’s Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front St. N. in Issaquah. For tickets, call 425-392-2202 or visit www.villagetheatre.org/issaquah/singin-in-the-rain.php.