Photo courtesy of Vicki Madsen
Jeffrey C. Nelson as Cosmo, Holly Richgels as Kathy, and C. Ryan Shipley as Don
For decades, Bloomington Civic Theatre wore the yoke of mediocrity known as “community theater,” but significant improvements in artistic quality over the past few years have allowed BCT to finally join the ranks of Twin Cities professional theaters. “This process has been underway for a very long time,” says Bloomington Theatre and Art Center executive director Andrea Specht. “We’ve been increasing production values and artist stipends,” she says—and the theater’s new Ivey Award eligibility is an important acknowledgement of those efforts.
BCT opens its 2013–14 main stage season with Singin’ in the Rain, a stage version of the classic Hollywood musical about the transition from silent movies to talkies. It’s both directed and choreographed by dance veteran Michael Matthew Ferrell, a doubling up of duties that “makes sense,” says Ferrell, because “it all comes out of the movement.”
Ferrell began dancing almost before he could walk. His mother was a Radio City Rockette who put him in tap shoes when he was 3. In 1978, he landed his first professional job as a dancer—on the American Bandstand TV show.
Shortly after coming to the Twin Cities, Ferrell began dancing at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and with Ballet of the Dolls at the old Ruby’s Cabaret, where he met BCT’s current music director, Anita Ruth. He began choreographing at Ruby’s and then at Chanhassen, where he eventually did nine shows.
“Singin’ in the Rain is the perfect movie musical,” Ferrell says. “It transfers brilliantly to the stage. The trick is the title song. The rest of it is just a lot of dance and nostalgia.”
There will be no actual water on the BCT stage, however. “To do rain, you have to build up the stage and install a drainage system. We can’t do that,” says Ferrell, “but we are going to produce a spectacular effect, using lighting and special effects.” Aug. 16–Sept. 15. Bloomington Theatre and Art Center, 1800 Old Shakopee Rd. W., Bloomington, 952-563-8575, btacmn.org