He's Singin' and Dancin' (In The Rain!)

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Posted by: wbtpress on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 4:24:00 pm
While he was drying off, we caught up with the fabulously talented JEREMY BENTON, who  stars in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN!

 

I'm originally from Nashville, TN.  I grew up surrounded by farmland and gravel roads, haha.  I was playing t-ball by age 6, and actually played baseball all the way through college.  As far as dancing, I actually thought I had invented tap dancing at around age 8 (I thought I was really clever).  I would tap around the house, driving my mother nuts, until my grandmother plopped me in front of a back to back Gene Kelly/Fred Astaire movie marathon on TV one Sunday morning.  I watched SINGIN IN THE RAIN, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, BRIGADOON, THE PIRATE... and so many more. And those were just the Gene Kelly movies!  
My grandmother would travel back and forth to NYC, buying and selling clothing for a retailer.  She would bring back playbills and stories of all the shows she had seen (Ethel Merman's opening night of GYPSY for starters).  My grandmother, grandfather, mom, aunts and uncles all sang and played instruments on my mother's side. I was always surrounded by music, but it was my grandmother that would steal me away and play me some of her favorites on the piano:  Gershwin, Rogers & Hart, and my favorite, Cole Porter.  

I remember really being drawn to Ray Bolger as an actor who danced.  He was such a goof-ball, but, when he danced, he had such grace.  I always pictured myself like that...  awkward and unattractive.. until I danced.

 

I remember the movie SINGIN IN THE RAIN from that first day my grandmother sat me in front of the Gene Kelly marathon on TV.  I absolutely loved MAKE EM LAUGH, and was obsessed with finding a headless puppet to throw around behind the couch (you can imagine the patience of my mother dealing with this child banging around the house).  I also remember how Gene Kelly looked like such a kid dancing around in that rain.  

I've choreographed 4 productions of the show, and also played the role of Don once before, back in 2006.  But, as we all know, each and every production is it's own brand new "creature", which is why I love this profession.  You can do the same show several times, and experience completely different things with each one.  

 

I think it's tricky to compare the stage version of this show with the movie version.  Firstly, the movie is such an American icon, the audience walks into the theatre to see the stage version with such a knowledge of everything they're about to see.  I have a theory, that the audience enters with nostalgia for what they know is coming, but, what they don't realize, is that they want to be surprised.  THAT is where the challenge comes in, and it's up to the director and the actors to bring something fresh and new to the piece.  The stage script strictly follows the order and story line of the movie, and was never really "re-invented" for the stage, so the freshness is all in the tiny details that the creative team and the actors bring to the table.  

 

I've had to opportunities to play many of the roles I've dreamed of playing:  Bobby Child in CRAZY FOR YOU, Billy Lawlor In 42nd ST, Billy Crocker in ANYTHING GOES.  I'd like to add one more "B" name to that list, though:  Billy Buck Chandler in MY ONE AND ONLY.  I'd also like a shot at playing Albert Peterson in BYE BYE BIRDIE.  (I understudied the role, but never got to perform it).  I also got the chance to originate the role of Fred Astaire in the bio-musical BACKWARDS IN HIGH HEELS, the Ginger Rogers story.  That was pretty intimidating.  Almost as intimidating as dancing SINGIN IN THE RAIN every night, knowing whose shoes I'm dancing in, ha!
 
Well, I'm actually a HUGE biology nerd.  I love reading and studying about Evolutionary Biology, and Natural Science.  I'm working on getting certified to be able to work with animals at the zoo, and perhaps, one day, be a field researcher for expeditions into natural habitats.  A far cry from tap dancing in the rain, eh? 

I have over 6,000 songs on my Ipod, haha!!  Everything from Rogers & Hammerstein to Stevie Ray Vahn.  I worship Pavarotti's voice, seriously.  I think of it as the universe lining up, and speaking through a perfect instrument.  It's sort of a religious experience for me.  My favorite artist out there now is KD Lang.  She transforms her sound for each album she puts out, and she's such an interesting artist.  Her voice is probably one of my favorites on earth.  Don't get me wrong, I have my share of Coldplay and Lady Gaga, too.  Like I said, over 6,000 songs!

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