To hear the name Gene Kelly immediately brings to mind the sounds of "Singing in the Rain" and the dance steps of a man who is still a source of inspiration to every aspiring dancer. Kelly was graceful and athletic; masculine as he delivered the most joyful of performances. Everyone recognizes his name, and yet, according to his widow Patricia Ward Kelly, few people really knew him.
Two performances at The Pasadena Playhouse intend to change that. "Gene Kelly: The Legacy - An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly" promises an intimate portrait of the artist delivered by the woman who knew him best and who was not only his wife but also his biographer.
The event will combine film clips, audio, memorabilia, and personal anecdotes that will reintroduce the dance legend in ways that will surprise the audience, i.e., as a multilingual man who spoke French and Yiddish and a sharp man with a love for economics, poetry, and books.
"That's one of the things that is most rewarding for me about doing the show," says Patricia, "sharing the little lower layers that make Gene come to life for people in new and interesting ways. Gene was very guarded and revealed little about him in interviews. That he let down his guard and entrusted me with his story was a great privilege."
Patricia met Gene in 1985 in Washington D.C. She was a 26-year-old writer for a TV special about The Smithsonian for which the 73-year-old Gene would be the narrator. Later he invited her to write his memoir and in the process they fell in love, got married, and lived together until he died in 1996.
"It is an honor to collaborate with The Pasadena Playhouse in presenting 'Gene Kelly: The Legacy,' since this historic venue was something that Gene and I shared. I remember particularly going backstage to see our dear friend Barbara Rush after her performance in Steel Magnolias," says Patricia. "Gene's roots were in the theater and it was through his work in the plays of his pals Bill Saroyan and John O'Hara that he honed his skills and first began to understand the use of dance to further the plot."
Mrs. Kelly is the sole trustee of the Gene Kelly Image Trust. She is also the Creative Director of "Gene Kelly: The Legacy," which goal is to celebrate the artist worldwide. She resides in Los Angeles and is in the process of writing a book about her late husband.