In their eighth season, the Seaway Valley Theatre Company, is boldly tackling an iconic Broadway show, with their production of Bob Fosse’s racy musical, Chicago.
Originally written in the 1950s by Maurine Dallas Watkins, the award-winner opened on Broadway in the early 1970s and continues to enjoy a revival.
There is a lot of glitter, sexiness and rawness,” said director, Leslie Ellam, who makes no apologies. “This definitely an adult show. It’ll entertain the husbands that are getting ‘dragged’ out.” Children are welcome, but with a warning that there is mature content, she added.
Set in the prohibition era, lead character, Roxie Hart (Brie Wheeler), who is sent to prison for the murder of her lover, has always wanted to perform in vaudeville.
“She sees her life as a vaudeville act,” said Ellam who explains that the show is based in “half reality and half imagination. It’s a fun concept to play, getting to switch back and forth.”
Among the 30 cast members, some of the colourful characters include razzle-dazzle lawyer, Billy Flynn (Jim Malyon); Roxie’s put-upon husband, Amos (Paul Aubin), cell block leader, Velma Kelly (Penny Watson), in jail for murdering her husband and sister; and the keeper of the keys, Matron Mama Morton. (Brenda Quesnel).
Wearing two hats in this production, Quesnel, along with her daughter Nathalie, are filling Fosse’s very big character shoes, as they take on the daunting challenge of the choreography.
“They are doing a good job, said Ellam, “I’m sure Mr. Fosse would be happy.”
Veteran music director, Brian McCartney, heads the 12 piece orchestra who will provide the accompaniment to some of the most recognizable show tunes in modern theatre.
“All I Care About is Love, Razzle Dazzle, When You’re Good to Mama… All That Jazz, will knock your socks off,” she said. “When Penny and Brie sing together, it will melt your heart. It’s absolutely magic watching what they are doing out there.”
Ellam is thrilled with the level of talent that came out to audition in late September. She said that the skill set needed for this show, a “triple-threat performer,” attracted many from outside the regular company, “changing the look of who we are this year.”
Years ago, Glen Production had wanted to produce the show, but it was considered too risqué and no one would back it, said Ellam, who chose the piece and was delighted that they were granted the rights. Many companies, she said, including Ottawa had been turned down in the past.
“I love working with this cast; I couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of people. It really does feel like a family. Everybody is supporting one another. The interaction between generations is wonderful.”
Chicago opens at Aultsville Theatre, on Feb 8th and run the 9th, 15th and 16th at 7:30, as well as a matinee on Feb. 10th at 1:30. Tickets (adults - $20; students and seniors - $18; and children - $15) are on sale at Cornwall Square or at the door, but it is suggested to pre-purchase.
“Tickets are going fast, bus loads are coming in from out of town, it’s becoming real. The energy is building.”