At the Pasadena Playhouse March 1st and 2nd, the “Gene Kelly: The Legacy” tribute show promises to be a personal experience for everyone. It’s not just a show that every dancer in town will enjoy, it’s a celebration of the Hollywood icon who was way more than the superb dancer we all adored on the Silver Screen. Biographer and film historian Patricia Ward Kelly takes the audience behind the scenes and shares the life and career of her late husband through classic and rare film clips, memorabilia, and very special memories.
“Audiences can expect to come away with a new sense of the man and his work,” says Patricia Ward Kelly. “What I hear most from people after the show is ‘I never knew that about him.’ There’s a broader sense of his many dimensions — not only his creative life but also his intellectual life. People say to me, ‘I never knew he was such an intellectual,’ and that was so obvious to me. I like to introduce those sides, and the very romantic side of Gene. Clearly that comes out in his screen roles, but I think people enjoy hearing that he would scatter Valentines around the house. He was more than an icon, he was a man of great depth.”
The show is better than any biography or film retrospective, because those are generally done by someone who doesn’t know the person, and they get some things wrong, or they let the legend get in the way of the man. “That’s one of the reasons I elected to do this, because I have a story that no one has. Part of that is that I had a dual role. I was his biographer and his wife. So I had a responsibility to record Gene every day for over a decade. He let down his guard for me. That was a privilege as our relationship grew,” Patricia says.
The format of “Gene Kelly: The Legacy” is like an intimate conversation. Patricia says, “I try to make people feel we’re just sitting in the living room having a chat. I’m not lecturing. I just want to convey the stories about Gene in a very personal manner.” And there are extraordinary film clips. “It was very hard to choose clips because you want to show everything. Some are very familiar but people will see them in a different light. And there are some clips that people have rarely seen, and some that few have seen. I will explain why Gene did certain things and how he felt about what he created. I also try to show the breath of his work. He hated being pigeon-holed as a tap dancer, because he was trained in so many different forms of dance and movement.”
The real focus is on the innovations and how revolutionary Gene’s work was and how he was ahead of his time in so many areas, including the blending of live action and animation. And some people are surprised that he was as skilled behind the camera as he was in front of it. So audiences will get to know Gene Kelly the director.
“What’s really lovely about the show is meeting the people who tell me their stories. It’s a very personal experience hearing how he touched them at a specific point in their lives, why he inspired them to become dancers, choreographers, or directors. It’s a very communal experience, hearing people ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the clips and stories,” Patricia emphasizes. “It’s a celebration, and everybody is participating.”
The Pasadena Playhouse presents Gene Kelly: The Legacy, An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly for two performances only – Saturday, March 1, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. For tickets call (626) 356-7529 or go to The PasadenaPlayhouse.org or visit The Pasadena Playhouse boxoffice at 39 S. El Molino Ave. in Pasadena.