“Singin in the Rain” with Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor plays Saturday night on the big screen at Davies Symphony Hall as the full symphony performs the soundtrack in all its glory on stage, so novel and fun the audience sees the violins being plucked during the ebullient title song. San Francisco Symphony presented the program Friday night with guests singing the title song while leaving Davies Hall, strolling in the rain umbrellas raised and Grove Street glistening. Those long plastic umbrella bags offered in the lobby aren’t just souvenirs.
Sarah Hicks conducts. She looks young and petite, under five feet in four inch heels and about ninety pounds with long dark hair.
It’s a joyous and upscale evening in the City. The lights shine and real pine trees tower in the lobby, decorated with ornaments hand made with foil, paint, pipe cleaners, CDs and beads and even glittered medical instruments by local children on behalf of various charities.
Gene Kelly co-directed and the big screen shows this dazzling musical and Kelly in vibrant and campy color, complete with a number called “Broadway Musical”.
Better yet, Kelly’s dazzling smile fills the screen along with many close-ups of his perfect profile and dancer’s physique while Debbie Reynolds looks 1950s wholesome and perky epitomized. Kelly choreographed the film complete with clowning and physical comedy that Bill Irwin and Geoff Hoyle would love, showcased in a solo by O’Connor to “Make ‘Em Laugh”.
Rita Moreno appears as a nightclub dancer and Lina’s confidant, both girls appearing more at home in the illegitimate and corrupt world of burlesque. Moreno will be performing at Bay Area Cabaret live in the new year, in the Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel.
Kelly and co-director Stanley Donnan present this story in 1927 when talking pictures debuted, destined to lead to nothing, a passing fad like the horseless carriage. Indeed the first attempt at the studio to compete with 1927’s “The Jazz Singer” fails comedically until the trio of Don, Kathy and Cosmo scheme to save it. The problem is gorgeous dumb blond who co-stars with Don, the statuesque Lina Lamont with her Betty Boop nails on a black board voice and decidedly unglamourous grammar that makes her sound more like a gangster’s moll.
Lina can’t act, can’t sing and can’t dance, presenting a triple threat, the trio agree. The plan is to have Kathy lip sync secretly and just this one film so Kathy and Don can make their marriage plans public after and Kathy will continue her own career. Jean Hagen is actually a great sport as the conniving bomb Lina who will not make the transition to talkies.
There’s a great sequence in the beginning, a confrontation between Kathy and Don about how theater actors are real and have talent and dignity and movie actors are just cheesy fakes, celluloid shadows.
The program runs about two hours with one intermission. Saturday’s show does look sold out with the exception of about five seats ranging from $27.50 to $90.
Tickets and parking vouchers here.
Easily walkable from Civic Center BART, one tiny bike rack outside the lobby. Grove Street, between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin, across from the opera house. San Francisco, (415) 864- 6000.
The symphony presents programs in December that aren’t holiday oriented and it’s fun to have a casual evening out in the City yet in such a beautiful hall. Preservation Hall Jazz Band returns with a Creole Christmas on December 15.
Related: Chris Botti played with SF Symphony
For more information: www.SFSymphony.org
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