Singin’ into the Season

October 9, 2017

On Sunday, September 17th, I attended GREAT Community Theatre’s production of Singin’ in the Rain at the Paramount Theatre, in St. Cloud, MN, to understand what the buzz is all about. Despite competing with the Vikings game, it was a nearly sold out matinee.

Singin’ in the Rain is a timeless musical that reached the big screen in 1952. 31 years later, the stage adaptation was released, and really won the hearts of theatre go-ers.

It is worth the time commitment, because it is something that I love, and I will always devote my time to the people and things I love.”

— Jared Walz, who played Roscoe Dexter

Wisely, this musical was chosen for their 2017-2018 season opener.  Singin’ in the Rain includes a cast of 22 performers and a production staff of 13. All of the performers are completely volunteering their time to be in this production. There have been roughly 243 hours of rehearsing and preparing time since last spring when they auditioned. Kristen Mattick, the music director, stated that “despite how long it took us to rehearse, everyone caught on very fast, because of the incredible talent they possess.” All of the performers are parents, employees, students, or even all of the above! 

Other than the talented actors, another intriguing aspect was the live rain effect and set! The super professional stage manager, Michelle Homerding, filled us in on some of the theatre magic:

How does the rain affect work?

It is a big, 50-gallon barrel that is connected to a system that pumps the water into a sort of sprinkler system. Basically, we flip a little switch, and it starts raining! It falls onto a platform on the stage, and the water seeps into a sort of pool. At the end of the night, we all dry out our costumes and flip another switch that pumps the water back into the barrel. It takes about 15-20 minutes, and it goes through an ultraviolet light so that no contaminates fall onto the performers on stage!

What exactly did you have to do about the performers wearing microphones and standing in the rain?

We tried our best not to choreograph them standing in the rain for long periods of time. When they would be on stage, they would maybe grace the rain or stand under an umbrella. All of the microphone packs were protected by either a plastic bag, raincoat, or many layers of clothing. For the microphones themselves, they were always covered by a hat, wig, or umbrella.

Michelle Homerding, the queen, is not a stranger to the stage managing game and was very honored when asked to stage manage Singin’ in the Rain.  

 

Iconic image of a man and his umbrella-Photo Credit: GREAT Theatre

 

Next, I had the pleasure of asking the male lead, Kyle Seamans, one very important question:

What does it feel like stepping into the lineage of Don Lockwood?  

This kind of role, for an actor, is very humbling and daunting at the same time. You said it: it is a lineage that you are stepping into, and Gene Kelly has got some pretty big shoes to fill. I just hope I can match at least a quarter of his expectations.

Gene Kelly originated this role in the movie and really set the bar high for other actors going to play this role. Kyle is definitely not a stranger to the stage. Recently, he was the title character in GREAT Theatre’s production of Tarzan. He very much enjoys the arts community of St. Cloud and looks forward to future productions.

Finally, I had the honor of sitting down with GREAT Theatre’s executive artistic director, Dennis Whipple to discuss this whole process and what is in store for future GREAT Theatre productions.

What was the overall production cost?  

The cost to produce Singin’ In The Rain was $102,000.00.  The budget is broken out for venue rental, royalties, ticket facility fees, production staff, sets, costumes, microphones, rain machine, marketing, props, make-up, light rental, and scripts.  This is one of the most expensive shows we have produced.  The cost of producing theatre keeps rising as we strive to increase quality.

Were there any sold-out performances—if so, how many?

The show sold about 85% of tickets available, plus, we provided no-cost or low-cost tickets to over 400 community members to ensure access for all.

Did this production set any records or firsts?

This was the first show that GREAT has had real rain as part of the scenic design.  We rented a ‘rain machine’ with pipes, tubes, nozzles, pumps and a 500-gallon tub for water from an effects design company.

Considering this is maybe the first time GREAT Theatre has done anything of this preeminence, was it nerve-racking preparing for this production?

We want every show to be amazing, so every show makes us very nervous, as we really want audiences to be surprised and enjoy the show.

Was this production at all a step into something that could make GREAT into something bigger?

That’s a great question.  I think this show did attract us many new audience members.  With a bigger audience, we can do more ‘adult’ musicals, like My Fair LadyMamma Mia, or Oklahoma, which are all really big shows that need a large budget to make them ‘WOW!’ 

This year is GREAT Theatre’s 20th season, so a lot of debate was brought to which show should be the kick-off. From Kathy Selden, to the ensemble, everyone in this cast had incredible gifts that really shined like a “lucky star.” This production really set the bar high, and audiences should look forward to the performances this season and seasons to come.

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