Powder and Wig, the College’s student-run theater club, presented its live production of Singin’ in the Rain on Dec. 2 and 3 at 7:30 pm in Page Commons. Directed by Ella Abisi `25, Singin’ in the Rain pays homage to its film origin, telling the story of the rise of speaking movies, which replaced silent films.
Singin’ in the Rain is notable for being one of the first twenty-five films to be preserved in the National Film Registry of the United States for both its cultural significance and its documenting of Hollywood’s historic film industry.
The 1952 original film is a musical romantic comedy, directed and choreographed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, starring Kelly and Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. The movie takes place during the roaring ‘20s, (as dramaturg Emily Flanders `25 informs us) and depicts the transition of Hollywood from silent films to “talkies” (films with sound).
The three main characters are Don Lockwood, a popular actor in silent films; Lina Lemont, who often acts as his romantic costar; and Kathy Selden, who is a theater actress with a good singing voice but who has not acted in Hollywood and has no interest in what she considers “pantomiming” to a camera.
Soon enough, the two fall in love, which creates tension between Don and Lina at the workspace. When the filming studio is forced to make the transition to “talkies,” they find it almost impossible to coach Lina into becoming a talking actress because of her voice and accent. This is ultimately resolved by having Kathy voice Lina’s lines. Though this humiliates Lina when she finds out, Don proclaims Kathy to be the “real star” of the new movie, and the two kiss.
In the pamphlet offered at the start of the show, the director and choreographer of the production, Ella Abisi `25, wrote a short blurb about her experience with this film.
“Having worked closely with this production for three years, I jumped at the opportunity to bring it to Colby. Growing up I watched the original movie and was captivated by the performances of Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and of course the brilliant Donald O’Connor. I was filled with excitement by the spectacle of it all. From the choreography, music, storyline, and more, I can credit this show to introducing me to theater,” she wrote.
The show incorporates dancing, singing, acting, multiple costumes, and comedy, just like the movie it’s adapting. However, as someone who has not watched the original film, the melodrama of a 1950s heterosexual romance was not only tiring but at times concerning.
It is debatable whether one should criticize a moment from the past for issues we recognize more obviously in the present, but the number of times that Lockwood would lean into Kathy, invading her personal space and boundaries, could fall into harassment territory. Additionally, the way in which Kathy is contrasted with Lina — painting Lina as the overbearing, vain, untalented, and even unintelligent, woman, while Kathy is the opposite — can be representative of catfighting or pitting women against women for the sake of fighting over a man.
However, if one looks beyond the possible critiques of a 1950s piece of media, Singin’ in the Rain is still relevant in depicting the need for adaptation to new technologies, especially in a society that has to deal with constant technological evolution.
Powder and Wig presents several plays each year with students involved in all aspects of production; all members of the cast and crew are students. Powder and Wig’s upcoming production is The Addams Family, directed by Bread Parker `23, so remember to return on Feb. 10 and 11, 2023, to catch that exciting opportunity.
~ Nico Flota Sanchez `25
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