Entertainment: A Hollywood classic makes its local debut with a youthful cast

Hollywood’s 1952 classic romantic comedy musical, “Singin’ in the Rain,” takes the stage at the Flagler Auditorium May 12, 13 and 14 with local high school students handling the bulk of its production.
Kelly Rivera, the musical’s director for the local performance as well as the drama director at Flagler Palm Coast High School, was beaming with pride mid-April when she talked about the work her students were doing to prepare for the mid-May performances.
“I told them (the students), that if we were going to select this show, I said I will need your help,” Rivera told Palm Coast Magazine.
That statement applies in general to the total production but took on special emphasis in terms of choreography and dance lessons for the actors.
“That is not my area of expertise,” Rivera admitted. “We just decided that it was best if we had some students that have the time to commit to helping with our choreography.”
Enter five students who are part of the school’s dance team who have taken on the task of teaching the student cast how to dance.
That is a crucial element to the show, “Singin’ in the Rain,” which in 1952 featured the fluid dance steps of the legendary Gene Kelly guiding Debbie Reynolds, a 19-year-old newcomer with zero dance experience at the time of filming, to mirror the movement of his feet in the show.
Kelly’s character, Don Lockwood, is played by Seth Kirk, a FPCHS senior.
In the plot of “Singin’ in the Rain,” Lockwood is Hollywood’s most sought-after actor in the 1920s as silent films are giving way to “talkies,” which is an affectionate term used to describe films in which voices are heard.
Kirk, who has been a fan of the musical since his junior high school years said playing the role of Lockwood has been on his “to-do” list.
“I’ve wanted to play Don Lockwood forever,” Kirk gushed, admitting that this role is a serious feather in his cap as he pursues a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a career as an actor. “And, you know, it is nice to have this on my resume because they (casting directors) will be like, oh, he can tap and he can sing decently? Well, you know, this is more like a leading man.”
In fact, Kelly’s portrayal of Lockwood, an actor trying to shake the crush his leading dance partner has on him, set the bar for dance and voice performance as Hollywood was moving into color film production more extensively.
The FPCHS students taking on the gigantic task of presenting “Singin’ in the Rain,” the musical, is also stretching their horizons.
For the first time in the history of student productions at the Flagler Auditorium, Rivera has a student assistant for music.
Alyssa Pimental, who is no stranger to musicals having played Cinderella for the local production of “Into the Woods,” made visual charts for the cast members and rewrote some of the music that was on handwritten scores Rivera described as “awful to look at.” Pimentel computerized the scores to make them easier for the cast to read and she made audio tracks for the student actors to practice with outside of regular rehearsals.
“She is so good at technology,” Rivera said. “She knew I had so much on my plate and she has been an enormous help.”
Plus, Pimentel is gaining hands-on experience that gives her a leg up once she graduates from high school.
The same is true for numerous other students at FPCHS whose participation in drama and musical productions provides them with the real-life experience and training that professional show producers desire.
From the actors on stage to line prompters and acting coaches to costume specialists to those handling the backstage details of lighting, props and stage setting, the students take the lead guided by their instructors.
That, said Amelia Fulmer, director of the Flagler Auditorium, is the goal of the joint effort between it and FPCHS. That, and creating quality entertainment for the local community.
“People may not realize the quality of the shows that our students do,” Fulmer told Palm Coast Magazine. “Last year when we did “Into the Woods,” and “Les Miserables,” so many came out to see the show and told us they just could not believe it was a high school production.”
Now with a slowdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Auditorium is back to full capacity seating, Fulmer said.
Noting that Palm Coast residents are of “an older generation,” Fulmer thinks those coming to the show will experience a nostalgic rendition of a show they are familiar with as well as community pride in watching a younger generation immerse itself in the iconic show.
“Singin’ in the Rain is definitely a show that older folks know,” she said.
Interestingly enough, the Palm Coast production of “Singin’ in the Rain,” comes at a time when the 70-year-old musical is gaining new traction in the theater world.
Several national periodicals including the New York Post have recently run series of articles discussing its filming, the cast conflicts and rumors that Reynolds feet bled so much that doctors had to be called in to treat her.
Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, told the publication that her husband as well as others involved in the production of “Singin’ in the Rain,” never believed people would be watching it 70 years later.
Rivera isn’t surprised though at the musical’s continued popularity and she hopes the Palm Coast production aids in helping the area overcome the challenges of the pandemic.
“We’ve all been through so much. Nostalgia has become popular again and I thought what a great way to bring an audience back into the theater,” Rivera said. “We have lots of singing and dancing and slapstick comedy and even a film within the play for our younger audiences to enjoy.”
— Amy Armstrong