The longest running American musical in Broadway history opens this week at the Guild Hall’s Black Box Theatre in Porter Creek, where it will play five nights per week throughout the month.
Chicago, originally written in 1926 during the Prohibition-era, revolves around criminal Roxy Hart and the murder of her boyfriend. Written by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, it is based on actual crimes and criminals she covered in 1924 while working for the Chicago Tribune.
It looks at corruption in the administration of justice, the concept of a celebrity criminal and sheds light on the media’s role in making crime attractive.
And it’s all told through a succession of vaudeville acts.
Full of sass, seduction and scandal it has become one of the most popular shows of all-time.
It also ran in London’s West End for 15 years and garnered a Best Picture Academy Award in 2002 for its movie rendition.
Even the Whitehorse casting call speaks to its popularity.
“I could have cast the show twice over,” says Director Shane Snow, who returns to the Yukon after spending six years (2000-06) in Dawson City directing the Diamond Tooth Gerties show. “We had an incredible turnout and the immense amount of talent there was to choose from was amazing.
“Chicago is a show that requires people with that star quality and I’m so excited to have this cast.”
In the end, 20 Yukoners with varying levels of theatre experience were cast including Emma Hanes who plays Velma Kelly, one of the main characters in the show, and is set to make her Guild debut.
“This was a great chance to get involved in the community and be part of an amazing show,” said Hanes. “The cast and crew have been so supportive of one another and I think audiences are really going to be entertained all the way through by the comedy, the music and the vaudeville.”
Joining Hanes and the cast is a six-person band made up of local musicians that are working under the direction of Brad L’Écuyer, who was last in Whitehorse in 2011 to musically direct the Guild’s production of Into the Woods.
“It’s going to be big sound in a little tiny room,” explains L’Écuyer. “The music is great and the pieces all work so well together.”
Speaking over coffee a week before the show’s opening night both directors are surprisingly relaxed. Snow says it is his style as director to bring a sense of calmness to the cast.
“If you bring a calm and positive energy to rehearsals everyone works better.”
The amount of work being done behind the scenes by the production team has made his job easier as well.
“The costume ladies are insane,” he says. “These volunteer ladies are amazing. The costumes are all handmade and you wouldn’t see that in a professional production.”
L’Écuyer and Snow say on top of their shared love of the Yukon they jumped at the chance to be involved in Chicago because it’s a rare opportunity.
“Chicago has really restrictive rights so it’s a real coup that Katherine (McCallum, the Guild’s Artistic Director) got them,” said L’Écuyer. “It’s not a show everyone gets to do, but it’s really happening.”
And Whitehorse audiences are racing to get tickets with the first week already sold out.
That’s something that doesn’t surprise Snow.
“I think it will do really well up here because it is constantly moving and there are a lot of scantily clad girls…we can promise that.”
Chicago runs at the Guild Hall from April 10 – May 4, Tuesday through Saturday.