In Telluride: Gene Kelly: the Legacy
I never wanted to be a dancer. It’s true! I wanted to be a shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
– Gene Kelly
He certainly was built like a pirate. Gene Kelly, the graceful, athletic, innovative dancer whose moves forever changed the way movie musicals were choreographed, rued his shape. He once compared his strength to that of an ox, and his looks to a truck driver’s. “I’d love to put on a white tie and tails and look as thin as him and glide as smoothly,” he remarked of his contemporary, Fred Astaire. “But I’m built like a blocking tackle.” And that was part of his charm. Scott Doser, who has arranged a presentation on the late actor/dancer/choreographer – a man of many hats, minus the top hat – this weekend in Telluride, says that while Astaire was in the ballroom, “Gene Kelly was dancing in the streets. He’s from my era,” Doser added. “This is nostalgic for me. It takes me right back to the 1950s as a kid, and reminds me how much” he enjoyed Kelly’s work. Doser is thinking most obviously of the classic movie musicals An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain, both starring, and choreographed by, Kelly.
But you needn’t have been born in the 50s – or have even seen those films – to appreciate Kelly’s legacy. As Doser points out, the consummate dance man’s choreographic style is just as fresh today (indeed, Madonna hired him as a consultant for her 1993 Girlie Show tour). On Saturday night, Patricia Ward Kelly, the late actor’s wife, presents a one-woman show entitled Gene Kelly: the Legacy. Ward, a historian and film biographer, worked with Kelly for 11 years to create this presentation, which made its debut in Lincoln Center last year to honor the 100th year since Kelly’s birth. She has been on the road with it, touring Europe and the U.S., ever since. The show will feature rare and familiar footage, unreleased audio recordings, and just as intriguingly, Ward Kelly’s personal recollections and musings about her husband. “It was a real love story,” Doser said of the Kellys connection. “And that seems so right for this time of year.” For more on Gene Kelly: The Legacy visit telluridepalm.com.
It’s a Wonderful Life on stage in Montrose
To those who think only the movie version of this iconic holiday story is worth seeing, I say Bah Humbug. True, James Stewart disappears into the role of desperate George Bailey so thoroughly, it doesn’t even seem like a movie for a while. But magic can also happen onstage, and with the right script, the props drop away. It’s you and the actors and the darkness, just as thoroughly in the middle of the story.
Tonight and tomorrow, the Paonia Players will stage It’s a Wonderful Life as a live radio broadcast. The movie came out in 1946, and accordingly, the “broadcast” is set in the 1940s: same era, different dramatic forms. Merrily Talbott, director of the Paonia Players, has a keen sense of casting. She lured 95-year-old Felix Belmont out of retirement for the role of coldhearted Mr. Potter, George Bailey’s nemesis, and cast Erica Ochs and Logan Woods-Bailey as Mary and George Bailey. She had directed Ochs and Woods-Bailey before, in Grease, and Woods-Bailey before that, as the lead in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, back in 2001 – the first year of the Players’ existence. Special effects keep the feel of the drama immediate – cornflakes crunching on a cookie sheet replicate the sound of feet running in snow, and two sloshing punch bowls of liquid stand in for the noise the angel Clarence makes when he jumps from a bridge and hits the water, forcing George to rescue him. Take the sets away – even eliminate Jimmy Stewart from the lead – and It’s a Wonderful Life still retains its magic, Talbott says. The fact that it is a radio play “doesn’t really affect the story at all.” See for yourself at the Pavilion. It’s a Wonderful Life is onstage tonight and Friday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m.
Ah Haa New Year’s Eve Gala
Dinner and a show: this year’s New Year’s celebration at the Ah Haa art school combines not only a champagne reception and sit-down dinner catered by Chef Eliza Gavin of 221 Oak Street, but entertainment between courses from Telluride Theatre. The other show is the art show happening in the same space, which has been transformed from the Daniel Tucker Gallery into a dining room featuring the works of Brucie Holler and Ben Knight. Holler, former director of exhibitions for the Ah Haa, is a painter in her own right and will display a series of abstracts. Knight, who grew up in Telluride, has “been obsessed with cameras and photography” since he was a teenager. Today he works as a documentary filmmaker with Travis Julia under the name Felt Soul Media, and continues to shoot stills in his free time.
Both artists will be on hand to discuss their work. Space is limited; to reserve a table, call 970/728-3886 or email Kathleen@ahhaa.org.
Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia
Metanoia is from the Greek, meaning a fundamental change of thinking; a transformative change of heart. The iconic alpinist Jeff Lowe, whose achievements include an unrepeated ascent of Latok I, a first solo ascent of the south face of Aba Dablam and the founding of the Ouray Ice Park and who has been called the most talented mixed climber of his generation, is familiar with the term Metanoia, having lived it. In the early 2000s, Lowe began experiencing issues with coordination and balance that would eventually result in what doctors have termed “an undetermined neurodegenerative process” similar to that of MS and ALS. Today he lives in hospice, still defying the odds, and is the subject of Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia, a documentary about his journey “from the top of the world to the end of the line.” The movie, directed by Jim Aikman (High and Hallowed: Everest 1963) and narrated by Jon Krakauer, is in post-production, to be completed this spring. Lowe’s supporters have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help bring Jeff’s story to life. To view a trailer of the film or to make a donation, visit jeffloweclimber.com.