Singin’ in the Rain, the 1952 Stanley Donen-Gene Kelly movie musical, has never diminished in popularity in its six decades of showings. But there’s a different way to experience the song and dance than on the two dimensions of the silver (or digital) screen: in three dimensions, live, on the broad, deep stage at Woodminster Amphitheatre at Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park, with the lights of the Bay Area as backdrop.
Going into its final weekend, the Woodminster Singin’ in the Rain—adapted by Betty Comden and Adolph Green from their screenplay—isn’t the first time the company has staged this postwar classic. The 2004 production was “so successful,” according to Kathy Kahn of Woodminster, “it convinced us to do it again. We had a sleeper hit on our hands; audiences kept coming as it went along. And they kept asking for it, on the ballots we put out, querying what shows people want to see in coming seasons. It had a high vote for years.”
There’re continuities and changes this year from the 2004 show. “We were able to get the same four principals back. And this year, the ensemble’s bigger: 42 performers and an 18-dancer tap chorus. When they do “Broadway Melody” with Don Lockwood and all those tap dancers, it’s pretty spectacular—as is the finale, with the whole ensemble onstage in slicker raincoats, holding umbrellas.”
Woodminster prides itself on the professional background of its collaborators—and the continuity of the institution itself. The Amphitheatre, a WPA project of 1940, is on “The Hights,” as Bohemian poet Joaquin Miller liked to spell his monicker for the panoramic site. In 1967, Woodminster Summer Musicals began, produced and managed by Jim and Harriet Schlader, both Broadway veterans of many original musical productions, Harriet a dancer with the Radio City Music Hall Corps du Ballet and the June taylor dancers. At 95, Jim’s still producing, sitting in the booth and announcing.
The Schladers’ son Joel is director of Singin’ in the Rain. Choreographer Cynthia Ferrer, who was first onstage at Woodminster at the age of 13, went on to a successful musical theater career, playing the female lead in Singin’ in the Rain’s first national tour.
Among cast members, Carl Danielsen went to school at Bishop O’Dowd, also started at Woodminster as a teen, and spent a couple of decades performing in New York.
The Amphitheatre seats close to 2,000, and features a “Kids Come Free” program, which Kathy Kahn notes, “defines ‘kid’ as anyone up to 16. If an adult pays in full and brings a kid, the two can get in for as little as $25 total.”
Next up—and last for this summer—Brigadoon, playing over the first two weekends in September. “It has a cast of 40, directed by yet another Schlader, Jody Jaron, formerly of the Garden State Ballet. Agnes DeMille won a Tony for the original choreography in 1947. Rehearsals have already started, with some of the same cast from Singin’ in the Rain—and tartans, plaids and kilts all over the place—we’re turning a Hollywood movie set of Paris into Scotland!”
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
8 p.m. today through Friday at Woodminster Amphitheatre, Joaquin Miller Park, 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd., Oakland. $25-$40.