Every once in a while, if I feel down in the dumps or just simply bored, I’ll watch this clip of Gene Kelly in the film “Singin’ in the Rain,” performing the eponymous song.
In my humble opinion, it’s a surefire way to beat the doldrums. Kelly is a masterful performer, and according to folklore (i.e. IMDB trivia), he ad-libbed most of this dance in just one take- all while suffering from a fever of over 101. As a dancer, he’s noted for the energy of his distinctive style and his muscular athleticism. For him, dancing is not just a form of art- it’s a sport.
His contemporaries include the graceful Fred Astaire, the acrobatic Nicholas Brothers (their no-hands splits are INSANE), and female counterparts such as Cyd Charisse and Ginger Rogers. But who follows in their footsteps today?
On Broadway there are plenty, naturally- Monsieur Wolverine comes to mind- but you don’t see many singing, dancing, and acting sensations like that on the small or silver screens. There are certainly actors who can sing well, such as Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, the leads of Moulin Rouge; or Neil Patrick Harris, star of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. There are actors who are pretty good dancers, as those in the movie Step Up and its sequels. There are also excellent singers who can dance quite well, who have dipped their toes into acting, including Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez. But I would argue that none of them have made their careers by doing all three in the same manner as Kelly or Astaire.
Even on a “musical comedy-drama” television show like Glee, the “kids” clearly have specific talents. Lea Michele and Amber Riley are the powerhouse wailers, while Harry Shum, Jr. and Heather Morris are the ones with the moves. Off Broadway, the most singing and dancing you’ll see in coexistence are in music videos, especially those of hip-hop and R&B. (I can’t exclude a link to Beyonce’s legendary “Single Ladies” video… or the SNL skit.)
Speaking of which, you see that bearded gentleman in the black leotard? That’s right, Justin Timberlake. Let me think: he sings, he acts, and clearly he dances (to some degree). He’s got those three crucial talents for triple threat magic. If you ask me, it’s time for JT to bring those elements together and… well, maybe not reinvent the musical, but at least make Gene Kelly proud.