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Singin' in the Rain; All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Musicals


I hope you’re already humming the music. If you are, you’re familiar with the movie that is often regarded as the best movie musical ever made. While most of my favorite musicals got their start on Broadway, Singin’ in the Rain was a movie first. When I was teaching, I let each class pick a musical to watch and one chose Singin’ in the Rain. (They were a classy group.) I was mesmerized! I taught theatre; I should have known every song, but I never remembered it being so wonderful.

Singin’ in the Rain is a 1952 movie starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds about the transition of the movie industry from silent films to “talkies”. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lena Lamont are the classic onscreen couple though off screen, Don barely tolerates his shallow, manipulative leading lady. Don meets and falls in love with a talented chorus girl named Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) who proves to be much more prepared for the transition from silent films to talkies than Lena whose voice is built to stay silent. The dance numbers are completely amazing. Seriously, Donald O’Connor (who plays Don’s sidekick and best friend) does a number called, “Make ‘em Laugh” that is just incredible. The physical comedy…it’s unbelievable. Check it out:

I chose this musical on the surface because it’s supposed to rain some this week. My scorched grass is looking forward to it and I am a little too. I love summer rains. They’re usually dramatic, sometimes quick, and a great opportunity to snuggle up and watch a good movie.

However, there are some deeper reasons I chose to talk about Singin’ in the Rain. I don’t have to tell you things have been heavy lately. It’s one of those times younger family members will ask us about years from now. And though I don't want to minimize the seriousness of a global pandemic, unprecedented tension between races, with a hot mess of a presidential election thrown in, I do think our attitude in the midst of all this matters. Don’t mishear me. I’m not saying let’s bury our heads in the sand or ignore our feelings. But I am saying there are things we can do to be a light for others in a dark time. If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably been told that your joy isn’t dependent on your circumstances. That’s not psychobabble. It’s a Biblical truth. Joy (unlike happiness) is found in Christ. In knowing He’s working all things for the good. In knowing we’re never alone. In knowing this place isn’t really our home. Are we living like that? With everything going on, I know I’m more apt to complain or worry than to see the good around me. I’m more apt to walk with my head down in the rain and never use it as an opportunity to sing.

I also picked this musical because, like us, the characters the movie were going through a time of transition. I remember in March hearing someone say, “I don’t think we’ll go back to school this year.” I was like, “Are you crazy?” Now that we’re slowly transitioning out of being at home, there are so many uncertainties. Will people get sick? How will school look? What will church be like? When should we take off our masks? It feels like R.F. Simpson, the movie producer in Singin’ in the Rain, saying, “Now that The Jazz Singer has sound, everyone will expect sound from here on.” The others said, “Are you crazy?” Just like the person making the school prediction, R.F. was right. And then everyone scrambled to make the adjustment.

As we transition from being home to being back out in the world, things are going to get rainy. No matter what decision is made, one group will complain. Let’s not do that. Let’s decide what things are non-negotiables, what things can’t be avoided, and what things are preference or habit. What do I mean by that?

Non-negotiable:

When it comes to kids going back to school, there are things that are crucial. We need to do our best to keep people safe. We also need to make sure our kids are learning. How we go about those things is debatable, but those are the kinds of things we should lay in traffic for.

Unavoidable:

Some things are simply unavoidable. People have to work. Do you think things opened up too early? Maybe, but people needed to go back to work because money is good for buying things. Kids need to see other kids. It’s true. I have some well-adjusted kids and they were finally themselves again when they got a chance to go to lacrosse and dance this week. We can spend a bunch of time complaining about things that are unavoidable, or we can do some Singing in the Rain.

Preference/habit:

A lot of what people complain about isn’t crucial or unavoidable. It’s simply uncomfortable. So much research says that wearing a mask in public helps reduce the spread of COVID, but…it’s uncomfortable. So, a lot of people choose not to do it. We want everything to be normal, but it’s not normal. And instead of transitioning with a good attitude, we complain and make things more difficult. Let’s not do that. Let’s put aside our preferences to make this transition more smooth. You can make wise choices without being a huge wet blanket whenever someone comes up with a solution.

Spoiler Alert! (Sorry, the movie is 68 years old. You should have seen it by now) In the end, Lena is exposed for lip synching when a curtain comes open revealing the real star of the show, Kathy Sheldon, singing in her place.

What will we tell our grandkids or great grandkids about this time? Will we be able to say we made the best of it and chose joy in the midst of a strange situation or will we be like Lena who was unable to cope with the changes? If it’s raining, let’s kick up our heels and do some singing instead of just trying not to get wet.

Doo-doo-doot-doo doo-dee-doo-dee-doo-doot…

Shannon