Gene Kelly, unplugged
Patricia Kelly brings the Hollywood icon to life at the Palm Saturday
By Heather Sackett
But few know that Gene Kelly, who died in 1996, spoke Yiddish and fluent French, often read a book a day and was an economics major in college. He was the epitome of the Renaissance Man, said biographer, film historian and wife Patricia Kelly. She will bring audience members behind the scenes of the Hollywood icon’s life Saturday night at the Michael D. Palm Theatre with “Gene Kelly: The Legacy.”
“That’s the point of the show: to show the breadth of this man,” Patricia Kelly said. “They love him up on the screen but they don’t realize there’s so much to him and it’s kind of fun to reveal that and take them through his creative process and what drove him and what inspired him and what made him distinct from anyone before him.”
Patricia Kelly’s show is an informal, conversational night of storytelling, woven together with well-known (and some not-so-well-known) film clips. The presentation is built around 10 years of near-daily audio recordings Patricia made of Gene. He would often sing to her at night, revealing a seldom-seen part of himself and his emotions, she said. Patricia then unpacks some of the entertainer’s belongings on stage, bringing the audience into their private lives and closer to the real man behind the legend.
“Growing up, my personal taste in entertainment rarely overlapped with that of my mother and grandmother, but Gene Kelly was one of the artists who transcended that division,” Doser said.
Gene Kelly is perhaps best known for his iconic singin’ in the rain scene from the beloved movie of the same name. The soggy, splashy, dance number with an umbrella has been parodied by everyone from “Sesame Street” to “Glee.” He was also one of the first performers to combine live action and animation when he danced with Jerry the mouse in 1945’s “Anchors Aweigh.” But Patricia says Gene would rather be remembered for his work off-stage. He was a pioneer of making dance a part of the story and changing the look of dance on film.
“He was trying to figure out how you capture this three-dimensional form if you are constantly moving toward the camera,” Patricia Kelly said. “He devised choreography that was specifically for the camera to capture the dance … He was way ahead of his time.”
Patricia took her unique show on the road last year, in honor of what would have been Gene’s 100th birthday. The two met when she was just 26 and he was 73. But the age difference was never an issue, she said, as they bonded over poetry and literature. Patricia hopes that audience members will come away from the presentation with a more complete picture of the man on the big screen: the one who would plow through the entire collection of Charles Dickens for fun.
“I call it ‘Gene on Gene,’ or ‘Gene Kelly, Unplugged,’” Patricia said. “It gives you a real sense of the man as a creative artist and more the man behind the camera than the man in front of the camera. It’s a really personal look at him.”
“Gene Kelly: The Legacy” is at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Michael D. Palm Theatre. There is a pre-show reception with chocolate, champagne and Patricia Kelly at 6 p.m. Tickets are $38 for adults and $22 for students. The reception is $12 with a ticket and free for Palm members.