May 7, 2013
By Peter Clark
Village Theatre hopes to slay with killer musical,
How do you turn a story about murder in the 1920s into something sexy, modern and entertaining? That’s the question Village Theatre does not have any trouble answering as the musical “Chicago” opens May 9.
After six weeks of production design and only four or five weeks of rehearsal time, the John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse musical will play through June 29 and then move out for an Everett run from July 5 through July 28. The traditionally dazzling show follows a murderer-turned-celebrity in prohibition-era Chicago with a satirical, darkly comedic eye.
When asked why Village Theatre decided to put on “Chicago,” Director Steve Tomkins had an easy answer.
“You have a checklist of shows you always want to do, and ‘Chicago’ is one of those,” he said. “Every year, we do a survey of which shows people want to see and ‘Chicago’ is always at the top of the list.”
“Chicago” is now the second longest running musical on Broadway which Tomkins said is a natural draw for talent and audiences alike. To follow in the footsteps of the original choreography and it’s award-winning 1997 revival has left the company with the foundation to create an engaging show but also a challenge in how to make it a personal production for the Issaquah stage.
“You sort of feel like the ghost of Fosse is on your shoulder,” he said, referring to the legendary theater choreographer. “We want to pay homage to Fosse, but we want to do our own show as well.”
Tomkins described the show as a co-production between the director and choreographer. Kristin Holland, who fills that other role, spoke of the complicated dance design she had to devise.
“Fosse developed a style of movement that goes beyond the set pieces,” she said. “It’s easy to do it poorly, but I think we’re doing a great job of it.”
After having worked with the theater to choreograph “The Producers” last year and “Anne of Green Gables,” she said she had a great working relationship with Tompkins.
“Steve and I have a great relationship on the stage,” she said. “A lot of my first shots at it, he likes. I have a sense for his aesthetic.”
She also said that they have added more dances to the show that are unique to the theater’s run. Their work has tried to instill a sense, both romantic and sardonic, of the 1920s. She said she has enjoyed studying the original musical numbers as well as dances and movement from that period to steep the production in that period.
“We really try to set the time and place onstage,” Holland said. “That’s what the Village Theatre does.”
Tomkins and Holland spoke with glowing words about the costume and set design that gave weighty consideration to how to give a 2013 translation on what “sexy” was like in the 1920s. Tomkins said that what was sexy in the 1970s, when the show was written, is not exactly the same as it was in the 1990’s revival or in modern day.
From the big numbers to the added dances, Tomkins said he thinks the audience will receive the comedic satire that runs through the show and be in on the joke from the beginning.
“This has been so easy because of the wealth of talent I’ve had to deal with,” he said. “All I want to do is make sure the show gets up.”
If you go
-Francis Gaudette Theatre
-303 Front St. N.
-May 9 to June 29
-Tickets are $28 to $63.