By: Michelle Saldivar
This weekend Osceola Arts will be premiering our latest Broadway Series show, Singin’ in the Rain. Since it is such a beloved film-turned-Broadway musical, I decide to sit down with its director, Patch Panzella, to discuss his experience through the process of directing this well-known theatrical piece.
1. Why did you choose to direct Singin’ in the Rain?
“The Center chooses which shows they are going to produce each season and from those, I connected with Singin’ in the Rain the best. I felt that I understood how to execute this show more than the others in the mix. I thought ‘I’m a tap dancer. I am a choreographer’. It’s also just a fun, light-hearted show. It has the stuff that I like, so it just clicked perfectly for me.”
2. For how long have you been a tap dancer?
“Since I was about 13 years old. I grew up doing music and theater. Around that age, most of my theater friends were in dance classes and I worked backstage at one of their performances and I just thought ‘I need to do this. It’s just so cool.’ Since then I have only ever done tap and I just love it. I love the musical aspect of it.”
3. How long have you been directing?
“This is actually the second show that I have ever directed. My first show was exactly a year ago. It was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum here at the Center. Before that, I had been in about 30-40+ shows. I had done a lot of choreography, especially alongside my wife, Jennifer, who works here at the Center. So I have experience on the production side and I have an understanding on the overall vision and main idea of a show. Now I’m getting to know the directing side of it and it is a lot of fun having bold, creative control of a show. It makes you have a totally different appreciation for theater when you can see it from this side.”
4. Do you feel pressure about directing this widely known musical?
“Yes, I definitely do and I could have been one of those directors that says ‘No, I want to take this in a different direction’ and do my own thing with it. The problem with that is I know the patrons we get here at the Center are going to expect to see their favorite parts that were in the movie. If I started messing with things and changing things, I don’t know that they would appreciate that. The movie itself – the choreography – I just wanted to do it justice because it is such a phenomenal film.”
5. Tell me more about the choreography.
“Choreographing the show has been very difficult. I’ve been trying to stick as closely as possible to the movie. We’ve done a great job with it but it has been a real challenge to try to make it look how people expect it to be. I want it to be as close of a representation to the original choreography as possible. I keep going back to the film and slowing down the footage to see it step-by-step and get down their exact footwork, especially in the tap numbers. It is nerve-racking getting something from your mind onto the stage because it might look completely different. Luckily, it has worked out really well.”
6. How was the audition/casting process?
“We just did our normal audition call. We posted it on our social media and told people the roles they could audition for and they just showed up. They came in and sang a couple of minutes of a song. Then, we sent them to go dance and we watched them dance. If I was interested in them for one of our lead roles, we invited them to our callback audition and we had them sing specific songs for the character that we wanted to hear them for. We also gave them some scenes and swapped them in and out, putting people in different roles. Then, we just came to our conclusion.”
7. Did you find that it was difficult to find male actors?
“Yes, especially for this show that requires the actors to sing, act, and tap dance. You throw in the tap dancing and that really messes things up. Definitely the tap dancing made the audition process more difficult. That is why I decided to teach a tap class earlier last year to build more dancers, especially male dancers, so we could cast the show.”
8. Did you find that the people in that class auditioned for Singin’ in the Rain?
“Yes, they did. Actually, my second male lead was one of my beginner tap students and he has come so far in such a short amount of time. I am really excited to have him part of the show. He is even learning more from being in the show and he’s just blowing it out of the water.”
9. How are you planning on making it rain at Osceola Arts?
“We are going to have a rain curtain in front of the stage before the proscenium and it will rain straight down. On the stage, we are going to have sprinklers, but the majority will happen in front of the stage. Hopefully this will cause enough puddles so our male lead can splash in and have a little fun with it.”
10. Do you have any hazard concerns with the rain?
“Yes, I mean you have him dancing in metal shoes, so there’s that. Then, you have to think about the costumes and having a few extras so he can change. And then there is drying the stage off after the major lead solo tap number. Luckily, that number happens right before intermission, so we have time to dry everything off.”
11. What do you want your audience to leave thinking about the performance?
“The show overall doesn’t have a big message to it. It is a happy, feel-good kind of show. I just want them to leave knowing they have seen a quality performance that hopefully does justice to the film and makes their day a little better.”
12. What was your favorite aspect of the entire process?
“Getting to work with the cast that we’ve put together. We have a really wide range of people in this show from younger actors who are in their early teens all the way up to seasoned adult actors. It’s fun working with that range of talent and seeing how they interact and work together. Also, getting to work with old cast members as well as new ones is always exciting.”
Show times for Singin’ in the Rain are from this Friday, February 27th through Sunday, March 15th. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. One Thursday performance will take place on March 5th at 7:30 PM. Tickets are just $22 for adults, $19 for seniors and $15 for students. Groups of 15 and more receive $15 discounted tickets per person at the box office. Tickets can be purchased on line at osceolaarts.org or at the box office. For more information contact 407-846-6257.
Hope to see you this weekend!