The beloved movie "Singin' in the Rain" highlights the difficult technological transition of silent films to the "talkies." And now, more than 60 years after the movie lit up the silver screen, Fox Valley Theatre Company in Elgin faces the technical challenges of seamlessly moving the iconic film onto the stage.
"Singin' in the Rain" will be presented in the Blizzard Theatre at Elgin Community College at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturday, Sept. 6, 7, 13 and 14; and 3 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 8 and 15. Onstage will be more than 40 actors, ages 13 to 20, from throughout the Fox Valley.
Fox Valley Theatre Company is the sister acting ensemble to Children's Theatre of Elgin, now in its 26th year.
The show, set in the Roaring '20s at the end of the silent film era, stars handsome Hollywood stars Don Lockwood (Michael Sherry, Wayne) and Lina Lamont (Sara Monteleone, St. Charles), the toast of Tinseltown. But sound technology was changing the way movies were made; could their careers survive the transition to "talking" pictures?
"Singin' in the Rain" transports the audience back to that world, with careers and fortunes changing, and sometimes crashing. The American Film Institute ranks the film, which starred Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds, the number one movie musical of all time. It's a story of hope, resilience and the power of friendship and love that sustains people through tough times.
Its hit parade of songs includes "Singin' in the Rain," "Make 'Em Laugh" and "Good Morning," among others.
And much as changing technology propels the story of the original 1952 film, technology is part and parcel of this stage production.
"Every step of the way there's been a new technical challenge: rain, thunder, sound effects," said Director Andy Bero, himself a CTE and Fox Valley alum and a veteran of the professional stage.
For example, the film world permits technical tricks not available to the world onstage, he pointed out.
"In the first act alone there are 17 set changes," he said. "That's not a big deal in film. But for the stage, we've had to get very clever with arranging the sets."
Husband-and-wife set designers Bryan and Cheri Cory have created a clever peel-away set that, with flies and curtains permits the young actors to proceed seamlessly from one scene to another, he said.
And the challenges have been met, Bero said.
"Yes, we can film in a castle, for the 'film within the film.' Everyone has approached the technical aspects with "yes, and ...," Bero said.
"Yes, we can make it rain. And, yes we can make it rain 24 feet across the stage."
The talented cast, many of whom had never even heard of the original movie, has wholeheartedly embraced the various challenges, including learning tap dancing.
"We have an incredible cast, filled with young veterans of stage. Many of them are very experienced and the younger members have really stepped up. They've been coming in on Saturdays to practice their tap dancing, which is like learning a new language," Bero said.
"Michael Sherry as Don Lockwood and Mikey Jakubowski as his sidekick in the role of Cosmo Brown -- I'm convinced if there were still a Vaudeville circuit, they could be on it. They're true hoofers."
Sarah Monteleone as fading star Lina Lamont is a true standout, he added.
"We're so fortunate to have her," he said of the North Central College freshman. In the movie, Lina is portrayed as shallow, but the stage version gives her more depth and permits the audience to see what it is she's trying to protect.
"Singin' in the Rain" hasn't been performed often in the area.
"Fox Valley Theatre Company is offering a unique experience to see a show that's a little more unusual. It's going to be quite an experience," Bero said, adding, "And as God as my witness, I will make it rain in the theater!"
Chris Cherry is music director and Andrea Leith is choreographer for the production.
Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. The Blizzard Theatre is in the Arts Center at Elgin Community College, 1700 Spartan Drive, Building H, Elgin. For tickets, visit tickets.elgin.edu or call (847) 622-0300.
For more information about Children's Theatre of Elgin and Fox Valley Theatre Company, visit cteelgin.com. Check out the "Singin' in the Rain" photo contest online and win free tickets to see the show.