DLHS fall musical recreates movie magic, complete with showers
When you hear a reference to the musical "Singin' in the Rain," most people will recall the immortal image of Gene Kelly singing and dancing down a waterlogged city street, with only his umbrella for a partner.
It is on many critics' lists as the best movie musical ever made. So it's no mean feat to tackle recreating such cinematic magic on a stage.
Yet Kathy Larson and Mark Everson have chosen to do it not just once, but twice during their tenure as director and assistant director, respectively, of the Detroit Lakes High School fall musical.
"We try hard not to repeat ourselves too often," Larson said of bringing the show back to the stage of George Simson Auditorium for a second time (the first DLHS production was done in 1999). "There's a lot of good musical theater out there -- but we'd always planned on doing this one again.
"It's such a strong show," she explained.
Not to mention a challenging one. With 72 cast members, 13 pit orchestra musicians and 23 behind-the-scenes production people to keep track of, there's a lot of time management necessary.
But Larson feels her crew of budding thespians is up to the challenge.
"You have to be very organized (to take part in a high school musical), or you'll sink fast," she said, noting that many of the actors in this year's production juggle not only their regular school courses and musical rehearsal schedules, but other extracurricular activities as well.
"Just about every fall sport is represented on that stage," Larson said, adding, "I think it's a tremendous testament to what they're able to accomplish. Sometimes it's a very good learning experience too.
"They have a lot on their plates... they have to figure out how it's all going to work into their schedule."
But sports aren't the only activities represented. Just ask junior Katherine Lembke, who has tackled the job of choreographing all of the show's 14 dance numbers herself.
Lembke, who is also a student of Ronita Hackel at Detroit Lakes' Center Stage Dance Academy, takes dance classes there three times a week as well as two Advanced Placement classes -- in addition to her regular DLHS class schedule. She also works at Vanity in the Washington Square Mall as often as she is able, and is a participant in dance competitions with her DLHS teammates every winter.
"I love dancing -- performing is a huge thing for me," said Lembke, but added that because she wants to pursue a career in dance after high school, she is working to expand her repertoire to include teaching and choreography as well.
"As a creator, as a teacher, as a performer, the more experience she has, the more that's going to help her along her career path," said Larson, noting that Lembke has done an exceptional job as choreographer for 'Singin' in the Rain."
"I'm so impressed with her training and her teaching ability," Larson said. "She's a real natural."
"She's doing an outstanding job," Everson agreed. "At times she's instructing 72 people at a time."
"We love the kind of choreography that helps advance the plot (of the musical) -- she really gets that," Larson said.
Along with the dance sequences, "Singin' in the Rain" also includes some truly memorable songs -- besides the title tune, other outstanding numbers include "You Are My Lucky Star" and "Make 'Em Laugh."
One other little piece of on-stage magic that audiences won't want to miss is the fact that the famous Kelly dance sequence will be recreated using what appears to be real rainfall.
Just as they did in the 1999 production, the production crew will be using a bit of unique technology that Larson calls the "rain hood," which was created for the original production by crewmembers Greg Mueller and Gene Benson.
Mueller has re-created the original "rain hood" construction for this year's show. The rain hood design involves shooting water up into a plastic hood above the stage, then allowing the water to collect and fall down onto the stage.
Unlike most rain scenes, where water is sprayed downward, the effect is much more authentic, Larson explained.
"It's real rain," said Everson, noting that audience members are invited to come up on stage after each performance -- accompanied by a crewmember, of course -- to see how the device actually works from a technical standpoint.
All in all, this year's fall musical is shaping up to be just as memorable as the 1999 version.
"Singin' in the Rain" will be presented on the stage of George Simson Auditorium at Detroit Lakes Middle School on Nov. 4, 5, 11 and 13 at 7:30 p.m., as well as at a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov. 7. Tickets are on sale now at Central Market in Detroit Lakes, at a cost of $8 each.