BWW Review: GENE KELLY ~ THE LEGACY - AN ENDEARING EVENING WITH PATRICIA WARD KELLY - at The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts

BWW Review: GENE KELLY ~ THE LEGACY - AN ENDEARING EVENING WITH PATRICIA WARD KELLY -  at The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts

GENE KELLY ~ THE LEGACY ~ AN ENDEARING EVENING WITH PATRICIA WARD KELLY ~

LOVINGLY SHARING MEMOIRS OF A BRILLIANT AND LEGENDARY ICON OF DANCE

@ The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, April 18, 2018

Everyone knows who Gene Kelly is, but after seeing this wonderful tribute to the many sides of him, you can't help but feel love in your heart for what he accomplished, how he felt about life, love and happiness, work, and for the amazing gifts he gave to all of us.

As a little girl, I idolized him with a fury, watching any movie he was in over and over, mimicking his moves, mesmerized by his talent and versatility. I went to every type of dance class I could, which did pay off, in that right after high school I got my first television job as a June Taylor Dancer on the "Jackie Gleason Show." We shot a live show every week, and during that first season, Gene Kelly was a guest on the Show, and I got to dance with Him in a beautiful number he and June Choreographed. During the week of rehearsal, Gene rented out a movie theater for an evening and showed us all many of the clips that are part of Patricia Ward Kelly's lovely presentation. He was breathtakingly handsome, kind, giving and so elevated in his talent and knowledge of anything to do with theater, film or dance.

BWW Review: GENE KELLY ~ THE LEGACY - AN ENDEARING EVENING WITH PATRICIA WARD KELLY -  at The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing ArtsPatricia begins this evening by simply standing center stage and beginning to weave the story of how they met, what transpired afterwards, and wonderful anecdotes about their time together and stories of his times on set with all of his lovely partners and leading ladies. She is very classy and well-spoken; just the kind of woman one would imagine capturing Gene Kelly's heart. In between each narrative, were film clips of his library of work on screen, all showing his agility, choreographic and dance skills, the joy he emanated while performing, his directorial insight, and a few dramatic scenes showcasing his acting ability. Many of them you would be familiar with, and quite a few are rarely-viewed more personal or behind-the-scenes shoots that are gems Patricia has assembled for this intimate look at a true movie star and gentleman of the world.

She met him in 1985, while writing material for a television special being shot at the Smithsonian Museum, that he was the host/narrator for. Not long after that she joined him in California and began recording and writing his memoirs, which began as a job, blossomed into a relationship, and soon to follow, they were married. For ten years they were by each other's side, until his death in 1996. The many poignant remembrances she tells with care and admiration are so moving and she takes us all on a ride along with her, in a captivating and sincere fashion.

She stresses his thirst for knowledge and improvement that were part of his make-up in everything he endeavored in his life. He really conveyed to her, and then her to us, how he wanted to be remembered.

A quote he treasured: "As a choreographer and a director, Kelly explored the possibilities of dance on film in a way that transformed the musical and gave birth to a wedding of cinematic and choreographic techniques that remains unsurpassed."

The first set of clips were ones that Gene had edited together himself, and most likely were the ones I saw in a Miami movie theatre in 1969 that he graciously privately screened for all of us dancers. Among them, "An American In Paris," where he charms a group of French children in the number "I Got Rhythm" composed by George Gershwin, to take part in his fun; "Anchors Aweigh," "The Pirate," "Invitation to The Dance," the ultimate classic "Singin' In The Rain," "Three Musketeers," "For Me and My Girl," "Brigadoon," "It's Always Fair Weather" and "Words and Music."

Other film clips shown, always preceded by some history imparted beforehand, were from films not widely seen, but were his most imaginative and innovative creations, such as his joyous duet with mops and brooms serving as his partner in "Thousand's Cheer," which was the first time he choreographed his own number, utilizing his proclivity for prop usage, and one of the most endearing pieces of choreography on the silver screen. His acrobatic and gymnastic skills were given center stage in a rousing dance on a construction site, which showed off his unique dance style that was both masculine and graceful while performing stunts (never using a stunt man, except on horses) in "Living in a Big Way;" and my favorite, "The Newspaper Dance," from "Summer Stock," as he discovers simple sounds on a sound stage set and assembles them together using loose floorboards and a single newspaper that just happened to be lying on the floor. It is this combination of genius and wit along with his stunning movements and likability that Gene Kelly used to change and evolve the Art of Dance forever.

A few other highlights included a short documentary of him directing the film "Hello Dolly," showing the filming of the huge parade scene, with him on a crane-operated camera up in the air with a megaphone to reach the mass of paraders and calling the shots out. Also, the adorable duet superimposing Jerry the mouse next to Gene in a fabulous tap duet, and a great piece from "Cover Girl," the "Alter Ego Number" where he dances with himself, as his alter-ego, way before blue screens were being used which is just remarkable, which he claimed was the hardest dance number he ever did.

There was so much more material, I could write a novel about each of the clips and the information Patricia gave us. Like I said; he is an icon for all time.

Near the end of the evening, Patricia talks of very private, tender moments they shared and again, takes us with her emotionally as she slowly unpacks boxes on stage left that represent the boxes of Gene's things that she had to unpack after he died, including letters, manuscripts and other precious items that survived his house fire in 1983. A touching moment comes when she unpacks a green hat that Kelly wore in one of his favorite numbers, "The Hat My Father Wore," from "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," followed by the clip from that scene. There is mention of their age difference, 47 years, but because of his life-long commitment to dance and the many other varied interests he indulged in, it kept him youthful and ever-inquisitive and never was an issue for them.

You can feel the respect and adoration Patricia imparts with each word she speaks about him, and the two-hour and twenty minute length of the show, which she wrote herself, feels like it just floated by as we were so enthralled and engaged in every moment.

She has been touring with this production for several years now, but alas, so far, it has been a one-to-two evening run in each location and always sold out. She was off to London next, and with the hope she will be appearing again soon in Los Angeles, I urge you to treat yourself to this wonderful homage to a beloved timeless showman.

You can follow her schedule at GeneKelly.com and "like" Gene Kelly The Legacy on Facebook to find out more information about her upcoming live Cinema tribute, "Warner Bros. Presents Gene Kelly: A Life in Music" starting this spring.

Photos provided by the Wallis Annenberg

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