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Rain Songs

Singin’ in the Rain, Handel’s Messiah and more
Rebecca Kilgore Trio
Rebecca Kilgore Trio

Musicals used to start on stage and then go to the big screen. But that’s been changing lately, and one of the most prominent early screen-to-stage musicals was the 1952 film classic Singin’ in the Rain, which creators Betty Comden and Adolph Green adapted into a stage musical (with choreography by none other than Twyla Tharp) three decades later.

One of the most successful American musical teams of all time, Comden and Green were Broadway pros before, during and after their cinematic breakthrough with the Gene Kelly vehicle, which along with The Wizard of Oz is probably the most beloved movie musical ever made.

And like Stanley Donnen’s original film, the stage version, also set in the 1920s, includes the classic ’20s songs by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown — “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” “All I Do Is Dream of You” and, of course, the title number.

Despite many rumors over the years, the 1985 stage adaptation hasn’t made it back to Broadway yet, but a recent production was a huge hit in Paris.

And now you can see an original Eugene production from Dec. 1 to 17 at The Shedd, with Trevor Eichhorn and Tom Wilson as the song-and-dance team Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown (played by Kelly and Donald O’Connor in the film), and Cyra Conforth and Lynnea Barry as sudden stars Kathy Selden and Lina Lamont, who like many of the world’s early movie stars struggle with making cinema’s transition from silent to “talkies.”

Directed by Peg Major, choreographed by Caitlin Christopher and with orchestra conducted by Robert Ashens, this production — even in the newly remodeled Jaqua Concert Hall — will no doubt lack Broadway’s inventive high-tech rain simulator, but hey, Oregonians don’t need any fancy production tricks to know what it’s like to sing in the rain. 

The Shedd also hosts its house band, the Emerald City Jazz Kings, in classic American Songbook holiday concerts Dec. 6 and 10, repeated at Corvallis’s LaSells Stewart Center Dec. 12 and Florence Event Center on Dec. 13.

More jazzed up American classics are on the bill Dec. 8 when Portland’s Rebecca Kilgore Trio, with ace pianist Randy Porter, performs a centennial tribute to one of our greatest singers, Ella Fitzgerald, at Broadway House at the corner of Broadway and Adams streets. Fitzgerald’s American Songbook series produced some of the finest vocal jazz of the 1950s, and Kilgore is one of the few Oregon singers who can follow her path without either flinching or merely imitating. And for some 21st-century jazz influenced sounds, catch the electronic beats (samplers, synths, bass) and jazz drumming of Portland’s Korgy & Bass on Dec. 8 at Hi-Fi Music Hall.

An even hoarier and more popular holiday tradition (although it should probably be celebrated at Easter more than Christmas) is Messiahwhich the Eugene Symphony and Chorus are presenting Dec. 7 at the Hult Center. Even performed on anachronistic modern instruments, Handel’s glorious oratorio is a stirring experience, no matter how many times you’ve heard its famous tunes, including — hallelujah! — That One.

Speaking of Baroque masterworks, who knows what’s going to happen with the endangered Oregon Bach Festival (be assured Eugene Weekly’s Bob Keefer will keep us all apprised), but Bach’s music will endure despite bureaucratic bungling and worse. On Dec. 11 at Springfield’s Wildish Theater, Chamber Music Amici and guests including UO flute phenom Molly Barth, organist Julia Brown and more will play one of J.S. Bach’s delectable trio sonatas and a violin sonata, plus charming chamber music by three of his most musically accomplished offspring: CPE, Johann Christian and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. 

We entered a season of gratitude (not, we hope, greed) last week, and one local institution we can all be grateful for is plucky Tsunami Books, which faces a critical challenge to stay in place. This Friday, Dec. 1, some of the city’s finest classical musicians, including the terrific Delgani String Quartet, singers Laura Wayte and dulcet-voiced Peter van de Graaff, and pianist Alexander Schwarzkopf will help you support a small but crucial pillar in Eugene’s culture. The music will go down even smoother with tasty treats for ingesting and imbibing available from Taiwanese Women of Eugene.

Finally, for a different flavor of devotional singing than the Christmas music that’s about to descend, check out singer Gurumukh, tablawallah Doug Scheurell and violist Jas Karan’s kirtan concert of Indian music at Yoga West Dec. 9.