According to Joe Mannarino, artistic director at The Musical Theatre Factory at the 24/7 Dance Studio in Frederick, the key to being an effective director is not to lead by example.
“I just basically do everything I didn’t do as a student,” laughed Mannarino.
After graduating from the New England Conservatory last year, Mannarino returned to Frederick, and The Musical Theatre Factory where he was a student from 2004 to 2008. He is now the artistic director at the Musical Theatre Factory and the director of the Young Professionals Student Repertory Company, a nonprofit theater company also part of 24/7.
In the past, Mannarino ran The Musical Theatre Factory’s summer programs during his vacation from school. With Mannarino’s return to the area this year, 24/7 owner Gina Korrell made the decision to expand The Musical Theatre Factory program and produce three shows; one for the fall, spring and summer seasons.
Mannarino will direct the spring show, “Singin’ in the Rain,” opening Friday.
“It’s a show that is a classic,” said Mannarino. “It’s obviously perfect for this time of year.”
Adapted from the 1952 musical comedy starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, “Singin’ in the Rain” tells the story of three stars, Don Lockwood (Riley Korrell), Lina Lemont (Ginny Huber) and Kathy Selden (Kendall Sigman) in the midst of the film industry’s shift from silent films to talkies. The movie was first adapted for the stage in the early 1980s and continues to tour nationally today.
“This show is so upbeat and lighthearted, it just seems to translate,” said Mannarino.
Despite its charm, Mannarino said producing a show with such familiarity presents some challenges.
“Whenever I direct a show, I like to stay away from any version of it,” said Mannarino. “I’m trying to keep it fresh.”
While Mannarino said he didn’t want to imitate the movie, he felt it was important for his students to have the film as a reference.
“[I] haven’t seen the movie in two years ... but I encouraged the kids to watch the movie,” said Mannarino. “Being able to go to the source and being able to relate to that has been really helpful for them.”
“You want your character to be recognizable but you don’t want it to be the exact same,” added Sigman.
A junior at Tuscarora High School, this is Sigman’s first year acting with The Musical Theatre Factory.
“We knew the outline of it and made it our own, we didn’t copy everything,” Sigman added. “The character’s personality [is the same] but you have to find your own voice and how your portray your part.”
For Walkersville senior Huber, finding her character’s voice was a little unpleasant.
“She has the most obnoxious voice you have ever heard,” said Huber who plays “diva starlet-type,” Lina. “... [Lina] is in a lot of the big silent movies mostly because she is attractive.”
Huber, who is also new to The Musical Theatre Factory, said she was hesitant to go out for a part in “Singin’ in the Rain,” but the Lina role turned out to be a good fit.
“I can’t sing and it’s a musical so I was a little nervous about that,” said Huber. “The great thing about Lina is she’s not supposed to be a great singer.”
Singing may not be her specialty, but Huber has been dancing since she was three. She plans to continue dancing next year at St. Mary’s College of Maryland where she hopes to major in cultural anthropology and minor in dance.
When it came to making Lina her own, Huber said she “tried to make [the voice] as horrible as possible.”
“My mom is a native of Queens, so she coached me a little,”