The transition from "talkies" to sound film was immortalized in the 1952 movie "Singin' in the Rain" and makes one more transition this month when the original screenplay comes to life in the Gainesville Theatre Alliance's stage production, which opens Tuesday on Brenau University's Hosch stage.
"‘Singin' In the Rain' is one of the greatest movie musicals ever made," GTA Artistic and Managing Director Jim Hammond said. "The American Film Institute's list of the Top 100 Musicals places ‘Singin' In the Rain' as No. 1. Whenever you tackle material that is so beloved, you're faced with enormous challenges and opportunities."
To jump the hurdles of producing the well-known classic, GTA commissioned New York choreographer David Rossetti and Dennis Mauldin, the resident scenic designer of North Carolina's Flatrock Playhouse.
The cast of more than 30 is now in a five- to- seven-day-a-week rehearsal schedule that began back in August.
"It's a choreographers dream to work on material created and performed by legends like Gene Kelly," said Rossetti, noting that this is his favorite musical and he's seen the movie more than 50 times. But, he admits, the tapping is a real challenge.
"It doesn't just require moving your body in rhythm, but also taking those things at the bottom of your legs, your feet, and making music with them. Tapping is like another melodic line being added to a piece of music. It has to be light, exciting and fun and fit the music perfectly."
Mauldin approached the project with mixed emotions.
"The most challenging thing about the scene design for this show is that you're dealing with an iconic movie," he said. "Many people have seen it and remember it. The challenge of putting it on stage in an interesting way that does not provide a second-rate version of the film makes it both difficult and exciting to design."
Actors Trey Butler and Marissa Druzbanski, both Brenau University seniors, play leads Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden and are familiar to GTA audiences from last year's production of "The Wedding Singer." They are joined by Gainesville State College sophomore Josh James who throws himself headlong into the cornball role of Cosmo Brown, a favorite character perfected on screen by singer, dancer and actor Donald O'Connor. The challenge for this production: accomplished tapper Druzbanski is teaching fledgling hoofers Butler and James in their new art form.
"What stood out (from the movie) to me was the energy. Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor were so enthusiastic that they really set a high bar for us as dancers - that will be tough to live up to," James said.
The Gainesville Theatre Alliance is in its 31st season as the creative collaboration between Gainesville State College, Brenau University, theater professionals and the Northeast Georgia community.
The play will be performed at Brenau University's Hosch Theatre Nov. 9 through 20. Reserved tickets are $20-22 for adults, $18-20 for seniors (65 and older) and $14-16 for students. Patrons can select their own seats on the website at www.gainesvilleTHEATREalliance.org or purchase tickets through the GTA Box Office at 678-717-3624, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.