YES Company prepares for Singin’ in the Rain
Can local youth performers relate to a musical from the Golden Age of Hollywood, one that’s set in the 1920s, long before even their grandparents likely were born?
That would be a resounding yes from YES, according to Tiffany Davis, arts education manager and artistic director for Youth Entertainment Stage Company, which is staging “Singin’ in the Rain” as its summer production this year.
Davis said in an email interview that teenagers in the troupe were taking “very well” to the material. “The show definitely represents an era and a style, especially in the dancing, and we hope that’s what reads for the audience.”
And, Davis said, the students didn’t watch the 1952 film starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor before preparing for the production. “We had a read through of the script on the first day, but that was it. I wanted the cast to be free to have their own creative interpretation of characters without the bias from the movie characters.”
YES Company’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” will be staged from Friday, July 19, through Sunday, July 28, at the Gallo Center for the Arts. The production marks the first under direction of the Gallo Center, which took over YES Company after last season from the Stanislaus County Department of Education.
The stage musical will adhere closely to the original film, Davis said, “including a light drizzle” for the famous Gene Kelly dancing scene.
Based on the classic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, “Singin’ in the Rain” is a romantic comedy about three performers caught up in the difficult transition from silent films to “talkies.”
The story was on a list of shows previously believed to have been considered for YES Company, said Cortney Hurst, director of arts education at the Gallo Center, in an email interview. “It’s also just the perfect, summertime, family-friendly, classic musical. It has a little bit for everyone: romance, comedy, great dancing and great music.”
Several young actors are back this season for the YES production, she said. “Patrons will certainly notice some returning favorites.”
Daniel Vermeulen, 18 (seen last year as Cogsworth in “Beauty and the Beast”), will play Cosmo Brown, and Catherine Charles, 17 (Silly Girl in “Beast”), has the Lina Lamont role. Brown is the character played by O’Connor in the classic film.
“But we’re also excited to have some first-timers and also a new class for incoming seventh graders,” Hurst said. “Recent YES Grads are also back working on the production team including Jesse Garcia (Gaston in “Beast”) returning this summer as our assistant to the artistic director.”
Also starring will be Brian Harris, 16, as Don Lockwood and Iraya Cress, 17, as Kathy Selden, characters portrayed in the movie by Kelly and Reynolds, respectively.
Davis is herself a former YES Company performer, so she’s well-prepared to carry the torch for the Gallo Center.
“We have tried to keep the same values and operating practices that the program held when I participated,” she said. “One difference has been having such an abundance of YES grads visit as guest speakers, sharing their professional experiences.”
The Gallo Center team has worked to handle the reins passed on by SCOE and founding artistic director Melanee Wyatt, who retired after last year’s production.
“We had a great partnership with the Stanislaus County Office of Education before and the addition of YES Company has just deepened that partnership,” Hurst said. “It has certainly been a year of transition as we learned the ins and outs of managing the program, but we’re proud to have kept the focus and priority on our students.”
Hurst and Davis said they also are “proud to continue this beloved tradition started by Wyatt and SCOE. We look forward to presenting this production to the community.”
“Singin’ in the Rain”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Fridays; 3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays, July 10-28
WHERE: Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto