3D Journeys

Connection between media, celebrity at heart of ‘Chicago’

Sept. 25, 2015

LaGrange College Theatre examines murder, seduction and all that jazz in its production of the musical, “Chicago,” opening Oct. 8.

DJ Grooms ’13, guest director and choreographer, said the show is a classic.

“‘Chicago’ is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history (“Phantom of the Opera” has been on Broadway the longest, but it is a British import),” he said. “It is an iconic show with iconic Bob Fosse choreography.”

Debuting in 1975, the musical was revived in 1996 and is still on Broadway.

Grooms said “Chicago” continues to be relevant in today’s world.

“The lead characters of Velma and Roxie become celebrities because they crave and understand the power of the media,” he said. “There are people now who are famous for being famous, like the Kardashsians. It’s the media and its constant quest for ratings and profit that drive so much of today’s celebrity coverage – just like in the 1920s, when ‘Chicago’ takes place.”

Sophomore Kelsey Seals is playing Roxie Hart, and she said it’s interesting to note the similarities.

“It is actually scary how the media can make virtually anyone a celebrity, especially those who should not be,” she said.

“The media's main goal in the 1920s and the 2000s seems to be to make the biggest buck by focusing on, and sometimes fabricating, scandals and negativity. This is one of the reasons why I love live theatre so much – it brings to light issues in a creative, personal and entertaining way.”

When it comes to playing lawyer Billy Flynn, junior Chris Senn said the challenge is to give him interesting layers.

“At face value, he is a sleazy, self-absorbed character who doesn't care about anyone else,” he said. “But playing him merely as arrogant and flashy creates a one-dimensional character. I personally don't agree with a lot of Mr. Flynn's ideals, but he has to have layers, and to find those times when he shows other human emotion is exciting and fun.”

Senior Linda Jackson has always wanted to play prison matron Mama.

“Mama is fun and feisty, and I’m a lot like her in that way,” she said. “But she also is sneaky, likes to get her way and will do whatever she can to make that happen. That’s the side of Mama I really have to work on because it’s nothing like myself.”

On top of figuring out their characters, the actors also have been challenged by the choreography, Grooms said.

“Some of the cast were in last year’s production of ‘A Chorus Line,’ and it had elements of Fosse choreography,” he said. “But this one is completely Fosse, and it’s harder than it looks.”

Lizzy Clements agrees.

“Fosse style is about control,” she said. “It is doing the least amount of movement in a strong, confident and purposeful manner. It creates beautiful angles and body shapes – if done well – and I’ve struggled a little with it. But it’s exciting to learn a new style of dance, even if my abs are sore after every rehearsal.”

The dancing also has been helpful in creating characters.

“I think Fosse choreography is all about feeling cool, sexy, and confident in your movement,” Kelsey said. “The movement definitely helps me feel sexier and more confident in every way as Roxie Hart.”

Assisting with the production are Josh Roberts as conductor, Ken Passmore as musical director, and Andrea Mueller and Dr. Toni Anderson, director of the music program, as vocal coaches.

Despite the challenges of the show, Grooms said he knew his cast could handle them.

“‘Chicago’ fits this department and these students very well,” he said. “It’s a big show, but these students are more than ready to take it on. I’m very proud of them all.”

“Chicago” opens at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 and continues at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9-10, 2:30 p.m. Oct. 11 and Oct. 18, and an extra matinee at 1 p.m. Oct. 17. Tickets can be purchased by calling (706) 880-8080 or emailing priceboxoffice@lagrange.edu. The box office opens Monday.

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