StageDoor Theatre gets glitzy with ‘Chicago’

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By Sara Miller

Trickster lawyers, flashbulbs snapping at the well-publicized trial, and instant celebrity. This could be the latest Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton escapade. But add a little of the glitz of the Prohibition-era underworld and a touch of jazz, and you have StageDoor Theatre’s latest production of the award-winning musical “Chicago.”

“Chicago” is a musical satire that originally hit Broadway in 1975. The show is based on the experiences of a 1920s Chicago Tribune reporter, Maurine Dallas Watkins, who was assigned to cover the trials of two women accused of murder. In the midst of these horrific crimes, it became clear that the media and legal system encouraged criminals to become celebrities at the expense of justice. When you spend an evening watching reality television or evening news broadcasts, it becomes clear that not much has changed in 90 years.
That’s exactly what makes “Chicago” so much fun. It oozes modern-day corruption, while dressed in the fedoras and flapper frocks of the Roaring Twenties. The satire is hilarious and oftentimes biting in show-stopping numbers such as “All That Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango” and “Razzle Dazzle.”
For those who missed either the long-running Broadway production or the acclaimed 1996 movie staring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger, the story unfolds in the style of a vaudevillian revue.
Velma Kelly (played by Katie Holtz) is a media-hungry murderess who is plotting from jail her return to vaudeville. Enter, Roxie Hart (played by Emily Zwingler), a wannabe star who is arrested for murdering her lover and becomes a media darling. Billy Flynn (played by Jacob Russell) is the egotistical celebrity lawyer who represents both women and wants to make them legal legends. Thrown into the mix are Amos, Roxie’s well-meaning and naïve husband (played by Tanner Buffey); Mary Sunshine, an unscrupulous tabloid reporter (played by Mariah Himstedt); and the corrupt prison matron, “Mama” Morton (played by Megan Nicholson).
StageDoor’s production is directed by Nelson Conway and choreographed by Jenna Hawkins.
“Jenna has done an amazing job capturing the style of Bob Fosse (the show’s original choreographer) in the dance numbers,” says Conway.
Conway goes on to talk about the show itself.
“Our cast is comprised of high school kids, and the show’s content is about as edgy as I would want to go with that age group. We’ve made some accommodations with language and costuming and toned down some of the show’s language,” says Conway.
The show has a PG-13 rating, given its themes — murder, adultery and dishonesty. However, Conway has worked with the cast to recognize the show’s satirical nature and realize that the story ultimately holds up humankind’s vices to ridicule and scorn. Most importantly, “Chicago” plays out these life lessons on a stage filled with old-fashioned song-and-dance fun. And isn’t that really why we go to the theater after all?

Sara Miller, a freelance writer and a resident of Evergreen, lives with her husband, two children and a dog.

Presented by StageDoor Theatre, 25797 Conifer Road
April 29 through May 14: Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Adults, $18; students and seniors, $15
To reserve tickets, visit www.stagedoortheatre.org or call 800-838-3006.