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The iconic Hollywood musical that gave bad weather a good name, "Singin' in the Rain" is coming back to the big screen – and with a big gorgeous orchestra joining it.
This weekend, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will continue bringing classic movie music to life with several performances of Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's beloved 1952 musical, complete with the film playing alongside the musicians. And while the movie is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, its story – about the joy of love, the joy of entertainment and the joy of dignity ... always dignity – remains a white-hot beam of pure joy, filmed on radiant 35mm Technicolor good vibes. In case you thought the sharp and swooning love story between a movie star and an up-and-comer couldn't be any more luminescent, imagine it with a full live orchestra bringing an added jolt of electricity and brightness to the film's iconic showtunes – and inside a beautifully renovated former movie palace, at that.
But about those iconic showtunes. To prep you for this special cinematic experience, here are eight of my favorite musical moments from "Singin' in the Rain" that even Lina Lamont's singing voice couldn't sully.
1. Welcome to "Singin' in the Rain"
Worried you walked into the wrong movie? "Singin' in the Rain" alleviates those concerns quickly with a quick jaunty rendition of the titular tune, a simple but full-throated ditty that starts the movie with an effortless grin – mostly because you can't help but smile at the first sight of Debbie Reynolds, one of the most beaming faces Hollywood ever put on a screen.
2. "Fit as a Fiddle"
"Singin' in the Rain" pulls off a pretty impressive screenplay trick in the early going, cleverly sneaking in a bunch of exposition under the guise of a red carpet interview. The rose-colored backstory comes complete with hilarious flashbacks to Don Lockwood's (Gene Kelly) earliest days as the grandfather of "Jackass" – aka an old Hollywood stuntman – and learning the arts from such distinguished institutions like the the dirty neighborhood saloon.
The highlight, however, is this classic Vaudeville-style routine from Don and his BFF Cosmo, a giddily bouncy fiddle number featuring tight harmonies, truly toe-tapping choregraphy and some vigorous violinin'. I don't know what the crowds in Dead Man's Fang and Coyoteville are booing; it's a terrific show!
3. "Make 'Em Laugh"
At its core, "Singin' in the Rain" is a tribute to the bliss of entertaining people and putting on a show – and no one puts on a bigger show than Donald O'Connor in "Make 'Em Laugh." In the one-man showstopper, the actor uses his entire face, his entire body and the entire set – and beyond – to get a happy audience reaction, putting in so much entertaining effort that even the audience is in an exhausted sweat by the end just watching him. The showtune itself is an iconically peppy ditty – but what makes it really work is O'Connor's happy hard work, refusing to stop until he's earned every possible laugh from the crowd. And he does.
4. "Moses Supposes"
Tongue twisters are totally a terrific, articulate treat, but "Moses Supposes" deserves roses upon roses for its verbose rows of imposing prose. Everything ends up playfully twisted and turned on its head in this delightful number – from Donald O'Connor's rubbery face to our leads' bubbly dance moves and most certainly the state of our poor diction instructor's office. Under Donen and Kelly's talented eyes, even utter nonsense words can be turned into cinematic wonder.
5. "Good Morning"
What's funny about "Singin' in the Rain" – besides the script, which is filled with whip-sharp jokes and jabs – is that the movie turns seemingly simple songs into vibrant, expansive experiences. From the title song to "Make 'Em Laugh" and beyond, these aren't particularly complex tunes about complicated things – but the dancing, performances and arrangements blow them up to mesmerizing blockbuster levels.
Take "Good Morning," for instance, a sweet and simple sing-along jingle that ends up turning into a bombastic tap number, a prop comedy and a globe-trotting, genre-bounding, brass-blasting finale. That's maybe the genius of "Singin' in the Rain": It makes simple and pure emotions play as big and euphoric as they feel.
6. Well, duh
Like I'm going to make this list and not include one of Hollywood's most iconic musical numbers – heck, most iconic movie scenes, period. But even though it's been seen and duplicated over and over across most of a century, the water-drenched original hasn't lost any of its sunny power, managing to print the sensation of effervescent happiness onto film with the help of Gene Kelly's buoyant dance moves and charm as well as the music's swooning, twinkling, child-like wonder and elation. It's a musical number so good, it'll make you think dancing in the rain is this fun. (Spoiler: It is not.)
7. Gotta dance!
In an entire movie of brilliant showstoppers, "Broadway Melody" is somehow the most brilliant and most show-stopping – quite literally, the movie stops dead in its tracks. Not that anyone would complain, as this showbiz short film – about an actor's rise to fame, the rejection all along the way and that unflappable desire to perform and convey emotion in art – is a mini masterpiece, each segment a visual and sonic delight.
The highlight of this highlight, though, is the ballet section, featuring Kelly and Cyd Charisse seeing each other from across a casino floor and fading into a gorgeous dream dance number. The edit going from reality to fantasy is gasp-inducing, the visuals are ravishing – the scene does more with an empty pink set and a sheet of flowing fabric than most modern movies do with $250 million dollars and anything a computer can imagine – and the musical score is sumptuously romantic. Between this entire sequence and the rest of the movie around it, "Singin' in the Rain" is like getting two remarkable films in one.
8. A Hollywood ending
We as a country lost our way when we stopped ending movies with a soaring choir and orchestra swooning a final grandiose note of joyful triumph. That's the definitive sound of 100 minutes perfectly spent – one that'll sound even better echoing live with orchestra around the former Warner Theater this weekend.
"Singin' in the Rain" live with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will hit the stage and screen on March 18-20 at the Bradley Symphony Center. For tickets, call (414) 291-7605 or visit the MSO's website.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.