Breast Cancer Awareness
|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • A great story about a glorious feeling

  • "What a Glorious Feeling" is the behind-the-scenes story of the making of arguably the greatest movie musical of all time, MGM's and Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain." And Oregon Cabaret Theatre's new production of it is a feel-good, musical romp.
    • email print
  • "What a Glorious Feeling" is the behind-the-scenes story of the making of arguably the greatest movie musical of all time, MGM's and Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain." And Oregon Cabaret Theatre's new production of it is a feel-good, musical romp.
    It's 1951, and Gene Kelly (Netanel Bellaishe) wants to make the best musical ever. He's at MGM, of course, where great musicals are made, working with legendary movie musical maven Arthur Freed (John Leistner) and longtime pal and junior partner Stanley Donen (Michael Danovich). Donen is directing — as if anybody but Gene Kelly could direct Gene Kelly — the landmark picture.
    But it's not gonna be easy. The woman Gene's in love with, singer-hoofer Jeanne Coyne (Katie Worley), is Stanley's (recent) ex-wife, dance-hating Dore Schary, a "message picture" guy, has taken over MGM, and L.A. has sufficient water pressure to shoot the picture's famous rain scene only between people's morning showers and afternoon lawn watering.
    Thanks to a talented cast that OCT's Jim Giancarlo brought together from around the nation and the efforts of music director Chad Dickerson, who also plays Kelly's piano player, Kenny, and choreographer Christopher George Patterson, who also directed, "Feeling" is so full of vibrant, old-fashioned, song-and-dance action it almost levitates off the stage.
    Check out Bellaishe and Danovich's buddies duet in Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane's "How Could You Believe Me?" Or get a load of Gene and Jeanne, who's always had a crush on him, heating up the stage with palpable sexual tension in Lennie Hayton's "Broadway Ballet." The vibe, and Karrie Smith's fashions, are straight out of the early 1950s, and the thing is full of references to the luminaries of the day: L.B. Mayer, Cole Porter, Fred Astaire, Donald O'Connor, Orson Welles, Judy Garland.
    OK, it has to be noted that the songs are from the real "Singin' in the Rain" and other classic musicals, not originals. That's the story. It's also a gimmick, a way of getting freebies. What Jay Berkow, who wrote the book for "Feeling," did was to frame a story that would use these great old tunes under the guise of these guys rehearsing them in 1951. So original they ain't.
    But it's to Berkow's credit that he came up with a story that's a bit more than just an armature on which to hang the singing and dancing. We get a protagonist who wants something badly (two things, actually), obstacles that keep him from getting it (or them) and an increasingly tense romantic triangle that swings between the poles of buddy picture and Oedipal conflict. What's it gonna be?
    Berkow's writing is filled with zippy one-liners, broad set-ups and zingy rimshots.
    "Maybe I can do soft-shoe in the ocean," says Gene, arguing for shooting a scene on location at L.A.'s Venice Beach after Arthur has explained that it's going to have to be shot in the studio for budget reasons.
    "Oh Jesus," Arthur says in frustration.
    "He just walked," Gene says. "I'm dancing."
    In contrast to the national and even international credentials of the other actors, Shaeny Johnson, who gives a boffo performance as the 17-year-old Debbie Reynolds, who in real life was forced on Kelly by the studio, grew up in Ashland. As good as the others are, Johnson, in a supporting role, sings and dances like a demon, adding sparkle to something that's already glittering. You might recognize her from OCT's "The Marvelous Wonderettes," the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's "The Music Man" and formidable rockers The Rogue Suspects.
    "Singin' in the Rain" was about that seminal time in the late 1920s when movies became talkies.
    "Feeling" is about a movie made about that time more than 20 years later, when the genre of the movie musical reached an acme of sorts. Berkow has crafted a worthy evocation, and Patterson and company have given that creation a worthy production and more. You will leave the old Pink Church with a smile on your face. You may find yourself humming Freed's "Singin' in the Rain" for a day or two.
    "What a Glorious Feeling" continues through Nov. 6. For more information, visit www.oregoncabaret.com.
Reader Reaction

      calendar