All That Razzle Dazzle: 'Chicago' at Saint Joseph's
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
PHILADELPHIA (April 1, 2008) – Kander and Ebb's Chicago, the Tony Award-winning musical theater sensation, opens in Saint Joseph's University's Bluett Theater on Thursday, April 10 at 8 p.m. Based on the roaring twenties play Chicago by Maurine Dallas Watkins, the musical features many well-loved songs, including "All That Jazz" and "Razzle Dazzle." John Kander wrote the music, the late Fred Ebb wrote the lyrics, and Ebb collaborated with legendary Broadway choreographer and director Bob Fosse to write the book.
"We chose Chicago because of itsincredible musical score, and its satiric take on the criminal justice system," said director Renee Dobson, M.F.A., associate professor of fine and performing arts and co-director of Cap and Bells Dramatic Arts Society, the University's theater production program. "The actors are in intense dance rehearsals, and are enjoying learning the original Fosse choreography."
Though most audiences are familiar with the concert-style staging of the current long running Broadway revival, tour and film, Dobson chose to produce the 1975 script that starred Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon as the murderous "jazz babies" Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, and Jerry Orbach as the lawyer and publicity hound Billy Flynn.
"The book is written in the style of a vaudeville satire, but both the revival and the recent film cut major portions of the book, which darkened the story, so much of the humor was lost," said Dobson. "The whole libretto is definitely worth producing – the actors have been surprised by how funny it really is."
Set in the crime-ridden Chicago of the late 1920s, the original play was based on real events. As a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Watkinshad covered two infamous murderers: Belva Gaertner, the inspiration for Velma Kelly, was a thrice-divorced cabaret singer accused of murdering her lover; Beulah Annan, a married woman also accused of murdering her lover, was the inspiration for Roxie Hart. Watkins merged both suspects' real-life lawyers to create Billy Flynn, an iconic celebrity attorney who counsels a nervous Roxie to "razzle dazzle" the judge, so "he'll never catch wise."
Dobson has assembled a talented group of professional guest artists to support the 22-member cast. Douglass G. Lutz of the Walnut Street Theatre is musical director; Norb Joerder is choreographer; Mary Folino of the Walnut Street Theatre is costume designer; and Barrymore Award winner Jim Leitner is lighting designer. The 10-piece band consists of five guest artists and five SJU students. Set design is by Rob Carovillano, technical director of Bluett.
Chicago is the final production of Cap and Bells' 80th anniversary season. Performances are scheduled Thursday-Saturday, April 10-12 and Friday and Saturday, April 18-19 at 8 p.m. A matinee is scheduled for Sunday, April 20 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call the box office at 610-660-1181 or visit www.sju.edu/capandbells. General admission is $15; students, SJU employees and senior citizen tickets are $8. Group rates are available for parties of 10 or more. Bluett Theatre is located in Post Hall at 56th St. & Overbrook Ave.