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First Year Players’ 'Singin’ in the Rain' goes COVID-friendly

The First Year Players delivered a new kind of production with this virtual performance

<p>Caitlin Woodford, third-year College student and director, led the The First Year Players' spring production of "Singin’ in the Rain."</p>

Caitlin Woodford, third-year College student and director, led the The First Year Players' spring production of "Singin’ in the Rain."

The First Year Players' spring production of "Singin’ in the Rain” looked very different from their past productions, with numerous modifications to accommodate COVID-19 safety measures. Most notably, the First Year Players did not do an in-person performance but instead chose to pre-record the production and offer three pre-recorded virtual screenings through ShowTix4U from April 30 to May 2. 

"Singin’ in the Rain" is a Broadway adaptation of the classic 1952 film of the same name. It follows three Hollywood stars in the 1920s as they struggle to make the transition from silent films into talking ones. In the process, male lead Don Lockwood, played by first-year College student James Good, falls in love with theater actress Kathy Selden, played by first-year College student Lauren LeVine, much to the chagrin of his conniving on-screen love interest Lina Lamont, played by first-year College student Adriana Gao. 

The First Year Players took many precautions to ensure the safety of its cast throughout recording. Except for ensemble dance sequences, which were recorded in masked groups, each actor’s performance was filmed individually by the crew and then edited alongside others’ performances in post-production. This was particularly noticeable in scenes when multiple characters were talking to each other, requiring the editors to constantly bounce back and forth between each character’s separate shot. 

While this editing style was jarring at times, it was a creative way for the students to make the show work in such a limiting situation. Caitlin Woodford, director and third-year College student, acknowledges difficulties with the new format in its program, but hopes that audiences can look past them. 

“As you watch this production,” Woodford writes in the program, “you will absolutely see some things that aren’t perfect. We are brand new to this format, and yes, there may be a few things that catch you off guard. But as you watch, I would ask you to approach this production with all the joy you can muster.” 

In spite of the challenges, the pre-recorded format enabled fresh changes for the First Year Players. Unlike past live performances, the cast was able to perform from a number of picturesque areas around Grounds, including the amphitheater and the Rotunda gardens. They even took advantage of the weather for the titular “Singin’ in the Rain,” which was performed, you guessed it, in actual rain. 

Aside from the advantages of recording, the show also embraced the time period of the 1920s with various vintage costumes chosen by Jenna Benzing, head costume designer and third-year College student, and Jenna Hauger, assistant costume designer and second-year College student. These included several flapper dresses, featured in pale purple in Kathy Selden and the Dancing Girls' “All I Do is Dream of You” and in a devious red in Lina Lamont’s “What’s Wrong With Me?” Another noteworthy vintage costume was the retro long-length yellow raincoats accompanied by big umbrellas featured in the “Singin’ In the Rain” solo and finale. 

In a more modern twist, the First Year Players used vintage costumes to place female actors in traditionally male roles, like first-year College student Violette Cadet who wore a suit and tie to play movie producer R. F. Simpson. And in an even more modern twist, many of the costumes were accessorized with partially clear face masks to accommodate COVID-19 guidelines during dance sequences like tap number “Moses Supposes,” choreographed by third-year College students Anna Grace Chang, Jessica Ferebee and Aubrey Hill and second-year College student Caroline Simmons.

Even occasionally encumbered by face masks and other restrictions, the cast demonstrated extensive talent. Gao stole the show with her excellent portrayal of Lina Lamont, complete with a consistently ditzy accent and fittingly exaggerated facial expressions. Good was also a charming Don Lockwood with impressive vocals and a convincing Mid-Atlantic Accent, and first-year College student Jack Kehoe’s comedic talents shone in the role of Don’s friend Cosmo Brown. 

While coronavirus guidelines created many obstacles for this spring’s First Year Players production, their first show during the pandemic, the cast and crew unwaveringly demonstrated passion for the production. From acting just as enthusiastically alone as together, to editing extensively in spite of limited experience, the First Year Players did not let the pandemic subdue their enthusiasm for theater. As producer and third-year College student Julia Ruth Preston expresses in the show’s program, the cast and crew certainly did embrace main character Don Lockwood’s sentiments in the title number — “Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face!”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referenced choreographers for the dance sequences as third-year College students Grace Chang, Jessica Ferebee and Aubree Hill and second-year College student Caroline Simmons. The article has been updated to correctly reference these students as third-year College students Anna Grace Chang, Jessica Ferebee and Aubrey Hill and second-year College student Caroline Simmons. 

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