News Column

Academy Students To Present 'Singing In The Rain'

April 27, 2013


April 27--Rain will fall on area acting students to bring atmosphere to a well-loved tale next month in Fort Smith.

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith's Academy of the Arts will present "Singin' in the Rain" at 2 p.m. May 4-5 and at 7 p.m. May 4 at the university's Breedlove Auditorium, 5210 Grand Ave.

The full-length production will feature the singing and acting talents of the academy's Xtreme Teenz group, a "stellar group" of students in grades 6-12, said Shannon Stoddard, the play's director.

"This definitely is one of the largest shows we've done, so this has been an exciting thing for us," she said. "These students have had to learn how to tap dance, and we're excited that there will be huge sets and huge costumes for this.

"And we're thrilled that it will rain literally on the stage," Stoddard added. "It will be tough to do -- having it rain on the stage will be something unique and fun for the audience and cast alike. Technically, doing the show is a bit scary, but it's something we and the students are excited about."

Laced with comedy, the musical is set in 1927 and focuses on silent-movie actor Don Lockwood and his interactions with his ill-at-ease leading lady, Lina Lamont. When movie producers decide to turn the latest Lockwood-Lamont film into a musical, Lockwood is delighted; Lockwood possesses what many of his fans and critics call the perfect voice, while Lamont has bottom-of-the-barrel singing chops.

"People will love the music and this show," said Stoddard. "It's such a great story, and we have such a great cast of kids for this."

The show's cast includes Blake Bulger, Donna Dahlem, Casey Goodson, Caleb Hopkins, Brigitte Koprovic, Cameron Law, Hope McHaffie, Daniel Myers, Hannah Pair, Derrick J. Rassinier, Zach Ruple and Ryan Smith, all of Fort Smith.

Other cast members include Shelby Novak and Emily Phillips, both of Greenwood; Josiah Burns of Van Buren; Serai Dees, Dakota Gibson, Alana Matheny and Rhianna Pierce, all of Muldrow; and ShaLee Rose Jackson of Charleston.

"It's really great because we have a lot of professional people helping us put on 'Singin' in the Rain,'" said Dr. Rosilee Walker Russell, executive director for the academy. "We have Shannon Stoddard directing, and Sheila Mann acting as musical director. And we have a professional set designer, so the kids will be fully costumed for this. This production is done very professionally, and it will impress every person who sees it."

Choreography for the family friendly, 2 1/2-hour show is being directed by Jennifer Woodside Anderson.

"This is such a classic show, and it's been interesting because these kids thrive on comedy," Stoddard said before laughing. "These kids are bringing their own comedy to the table with this, and that's fun to see. Someone was goofing around during rehearsal, and I was like, 'No, that's good. That's really good. Let's leave that in the production.'"

The actors' chemistry and dedication to the material continue to impress Stoddard and Russell on a weekly basis.

"I think we had great timing by picking this production," Russell said. "The nationally touring version of 'Singin' in the Rain' will be in Chicago in May, so these classic tours periodically tour on Broadway and elsewhere. This version we're doing, yes, it's the real deal."

The academy offers a preschool MusikGarten program, art classes for elementary-age children and private music lessons and music theory classes, as well as theatre, choral and instrumental programs. The academy's next production, "Once Upon a Mattress," will be staged May 17-19.

"Singin' in the Rain"

Presented by the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith's Academy of the Arts

When: 2 p.m. May 4-5 and 7 p.m. May 4

Where: UAFS's Breedlove Auditorium, 5210 Grand Ave.

The show is part of the academy's ShowTime Series featuring Xtreme Teenz. Tickets are $6 for children 5 and younger, $10 for adults and $8 for groups of 10 or more. Tickets can be purchased by calling 788-7300, at the UAFS box office and at the door.

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