'What a Glorious Feeling' at OCT

Playwright Jay Beskow provides a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a classic Hollywood musical in "What a Glorious Feeling," opening Friday, Sept. 9, at Oregon Cabaret Theatre in Ashland.

In 1951, MGM producer Arthur Freed and actor, dancer and singer Gene Kelly team up to create "Singin' in the Rain." In turn, Kelly collaborates with screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolf Green and comes up with a comic story about Hollywood's transition from silent films to "talkies."

"The play centers around Freed," said Jim Giancarlo, artistic director of OCT. "He headed up all of the great musicals at MGM, and he wanted a movie that would incorporate all the songs he'd written in the '20s and '30s for the studio's earlier films.

" 'Glorious Feeling' is full of songs from 'Singin' in the Rain' and other films of the time."

The show previews Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 7-8, and opens Friday, Sept. 9, at OCT, First and Hargadine streets. Performances are set for 8 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays and 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 6.

Kelly is joined in his endeavor by co-director Stanley Donen, dance assistant Jeanne Coyne and young, aspiring actress Kathy Selden, played by Debbie Reynolds.

In OCT's production of "Glorious Feeling," John Leistner plays Freed, and Shaeny Johnson plays Reynolds. Leistner appeared in OCT's "The Daly News" earlier this year, and Johnson played Suzy in "The Marvelous Wonderettes." Chicago actor Michael Danovich debuts as Donen at OCT, and Katie Worley of California plays Coyne.

"Casting the central role of Kelly was no easy task," stated Giancarlo in a press release. "We were just weeks from rehearsals, and still no Gene. Then we were very lucky to find Netanel Bellaishe, a world-class dancer who won the Israeli version of 'So You Think You Can Dance' in 2008. He's a graduate of the American Music and Dramatic Academy in New York City, and he had just completed a national tour of 'A Chorus Line.' He is also a great singer and actor, and Gene Kelly is his lifelong idol."

Christopher George Patterson directs the OCT show. Musical director is Chad Dickerson. Patterson choreographed the play last summer at The Depot Theatre in Westport, N.Y.

Tickets cost $19 for the previews, $35 for Friday and Saturday evening performances, $25 for Sunday evenings, $31 for Thursdays, $29 for Saturday and Sunday matinees and $16 for bistro seating. Dinner is available at 6:30 p.m. for evening shows, and brunch is at 11:30 a.m. for weekend matinees. Reservations are required, and tickets do not include food or beverages. Call 541-488-2902 or see www.oregoncabaret.com.

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