WELLSBURG - Nic Taylor of Wellsburg, director of the Brooke Hills Playhouse production of the classic Jon Kander-Fred Ebb-Bob Fosse musical comedy, "Chicago," says the cast of the production is the strongest ensemble with whom he's ever worked. "They range in age from 14 to the upper 50's, and they have experience and they have youth, but what I have from everyone is excitement, and that's what you need to put on a good show," Taylor declared.
Based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, with a script adaptation by David Thompson, "Chicago" focuses on vaudevillian Velma Kelly (Emily Hores of Wellsburg) and chorus girl Roxie Hart (Kacie Craig of Weirton), both accused of murders and both vying for the spotlight from an eager press corps and the services of unscrupulous criminal lawyer Billy Flynn (John Heiserman of Weirton).
"Chicago" was the recipient of six Tony awards and six Drama Desk awards, including Best Revival of a musical from both presenters. The show will conclude its two-weekend run this Friday and Saturday, July 18-19, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 20, at 2 p.m. Because of limited seating, reservations are strongly suggested, and may be made by calling the Playhouse at (304) 737-3344.
Gretchen Carter, Kylie Fodor, Courtney Shaffer, Emily Hores, Lindsay Six and Kendra Wickham rehearse for the Brooke Hills Playhouse production of 'Chicago.'
Taylor noted that, despite it's hummable tunes and strong production numbers, "Chicago" poses some unusual challenges for its cast. "The biggest challenge for the actors is putting smiles on their faces and doing the big dance moves while still conveying the show's sinister underpinnings through voice and movement," he said.
Like all Bob Fosse shows, "Chicago" demands a lot of dance moves from the whole cast, and Taylor acknowledged the major contributions of his choreographer to that aspect of the production. "I've been fortunate enough to work with Elise Oliver, a fabulous choreographer, with her sister, Courtney Shaffer, serving as dance captain, so the dance rehearsals have been very productive, especially when you consider that many of the cast members have no formal dance training," Taylor observed.
Taylor said he wanted the Brooke Hills production of "Chicago" to be different from any other interpretation of the show. "I had to keep every production of 'Chicago' I've ever seen out of my head," Taylor declared. "I'm not going for big and flashy," he explained. "What I want to do most is to show the characters in the story trying to be impressive when they're really not," he continued.
Taylor went on to note that Kander, Ebb and Fosse created a show that draws the audience into the action. "The audience becomes a part of the show so, by the end of the story, they realize what's really going on, and they have to re-evaluate themselves, after smiling at and applauding murderers," he said.
The Playhouse's next production will be Eve Ensler's comedy-drama, "The Vagina Monologues," to be presented July 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. Each of the monologues, alternating among three actors, deals with an aspect of the female experience, with recurring themes of female empowerment and the ultimate embodiment of individuality. Because of explicit content and language, the play is recommended for adults only.
"The Vagina Monologues," which won the 1997 Obie Award for best off-Broadway play, has been staged internationally, and a television version featuring Ensler was produced by HBO. In 1998, Ensler and others launched V-Day, a global non-profit movement that has raised over $75 million for women's anti-violence groups.