It’s time for some fun in the rain

Lisa
Lisa Goudy
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RuBarb Productions ready to open Singin’ in the Rain

Jennifer Stewart never wanted to take dancing lessons.

“(My dad) would pay me a quarter if I would go every Saturday morning and I’m really glad that he did that. It was ballet. I always wanted to tap dance,” she said, adding her first dance lessons began when she was three. “(Tap) was always my favourite … and here I am tap dancing for a living.”

Her tap dancing lessons began at age eight. Later at Sheridan College for musical theatre in Oakville, she continued taking tap ballet and jazz seven days a week for three years and continued taking tap classes whenever she had the chance.

Now she is starring as Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain, put on by RuBarb Productions at the Mae Wilson Theatre at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre. It opens Thursday at and runs until Aug. 17. There will be a total of 12 performances, including some matinees.

“It’s kind of a show that’s on your bucket list as an actor. It’s just a classic tap musical,” said Stewart. “It’s really exciting.”

The show marks the Saskatchewan premiere of the musical, which has only been done twice in Ontario.

Geoffrey Tyler, who plays Don Lockwood, has been dancing since he was 14. He too went to Sheridan College.

“I thought I was going to be an actor, but then musicals just seemed like so much more fun,” he said. “For me it’s been on and off over the years. I’ll go a few years without dancing and then something will come up and I’ll have to grind the old machinery back into gear, which is always a bit arduous but fun nevertheless. So here I am, I’m still getting to do it.”

In preparation for all of the tap dancing in the show, the stage floor was sealed up the seams and coated with a waterproof paint. There is one iconic scene where it will rain on stage.

"We have a giant brigade of people that, after the rain scene, come out and clean it up and they’re pretty quick. It only takes them five or 10 minutes,” said Tyler. “I can’t wait to show it to people, all the cool effects and all the hard work we’ve been doing.”

Jay T. Schramek, who portrays Cosmo and is also the choreographer, said the biggest challenge working on the production equates to the biggest joy. The show features a combination of singing, dancing, projections and other effects.

“Seeing all those aspects come together, marrying the technical components with the band, with the cast and with everybody bringing their best … bringing all those things together as much as they are a challenge, they are the joy of what we do,” he said. “(It’s great) seeing how everything comes together, all these things that were brought together initially independent of each other but come together so seamlessly.”

“That’s one of the things I love the most about theatre. It is a team effort,” added Stewart. “You’re only as strong as you’re weakest link so it’s everyone helping each other do the best that they can do.”

Evie Koop Sawatzky, artistic director of RuBarb Productions as well as director and conductor of Singin’ in the Rain, said she couldn’t wait for the show to open.

“Now is when the magic comes together,” she said on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s these last hours before it’s revealed when it really begins to gel and when all of the different elements really come together between the technical and the sets and the costuming. It really takes on a life of its own.”

For tickets, contact RuBarb at 306-693-1771, visit rubarbproductions.com or stop by the box office at 321 Main St. N.

A ‘whirlwind’ for RuBarb’s first year

It’s been a year of meetings and paperwork for Evie Koop Sawatzky.

“It’s been one thing after the other,” she said. “Actually for me in particular, being pregnant for most of the year, most of the season the next number of hours are the culmination of all of that hard work and once we’re into show I get to sit back and relax.”

RuBarb Productions Inc. is a registered non-profit organization. The theatre company has also applied for a number of grants and established the board of directors and the protocol of the theatre.

"It’s been about really establishing what RuBarb is so we can continue on a path and that future people who are involved with RuBarb will hopefully really understand our vision and why we started this company and continue it in a way that we began,” said Sawatzky.

“It’s all behind the scenes stuff that you just don’t even think about but it’s endless hours of meetings and paper and so it’s those unsung hours that really establish making it into a finely oiled machine.”

It’s certainly been a learning curve to start the non-profit theatre company for Sawatzky, but she can’t wait for the second season.

“I’m just excited to do everything again. I’m excited to start establishing a pattern, to not have quite so many new things,” said Sawatzky. “It’s been a lot of firsts this year and they’ve been excellent, but they’ve been climbing on top of each other one after the other. So next year I’ll know where I’m going a bit more.

“It’s maintenance. Next year is maintenance rather than starting from scratch so I’m excited about that.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Sheridan College, RuBarb Productions, Mae Wilson Theatre Moose Jaw Cultural Centre

Geographic location: Oakville, Saskatchewan, Ontario

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