McLean, Virginia — The students of McLean High School are training for a Broadway future as they bring Bob Fosse’s Tony-Award winning musical Chicago to their stage May 27, 28 and 30.
Based on the 1924 murder trials of murderess Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, “Chicago, the Musical” has roots deep in the note pad of Chicago Tribute reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins .
Watkins reporting of the trials of two Chicago murderesses were so popular with the papers readership that she wrote a play based on the story and it has been retold countless times over the last seventy plus years.
From Watkins first production run, the play traveled to Broadway (1926) where it ran for 172 performances. Movie legend Cecil B. DeMille produced a silent screen version and the tale was told once again with Ginger Rogers (1942) in the lead role of Roxie Hart.
The Chicago musical that is inspiring leagues of young Broadway bound stars is the result of theater legend and master of jazz dance Bob Fosse who purchased the rights to the story from Watkins estate, creating some of the most memorable songs to come from the Great White Way (thus named in 1880 when nearly a mile of the Theater District street shone bright beneath Brush arc lamps, making it one of the first electrically lit street in America.)
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The musical is a contemporary look on the ages old tales of justice in society set in the Jazz crazy era of the 1920s. Men were harsh and women, according to this tale, would find themselves taking drastic measures, including murdering their lying, cheating, drinking and beating spouses, boyfriends and lovers.
A saga told well through the song “Cell Block Tango,” featuring six Chicago Jail murderesses, and seen here from Chicago, the Movie (2002) featuring Renee Zellwinger as Roxie and Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma.
While the original trial had the murderesses acquitted of their crimes, the Broadway musical brings a cast of characters that include Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, both of whom have killed their lovers and are now competing for the media limelight of cause célèbre, the promise of enhanced vaudeville careers when they are acquitted and the attention, and freedom, that only the smooth talking lawyer, Billy Flynn can deliver.
First to arrive behind bars, Velma is flamboyant, the beloved go-to girl on the cell block. Velma is the leader of the girls, all who seem to be there for taking cheating, lying, beating and hatful men to an early just reward.
When Roxie lands in the Cook County Jail she quickly become the new favorite of the Matron “Mama” Morton and Velma finds she loses the privileges that come with being favored only to have thing become even more desperate when she loses her lawyer, Billy Flynn, to the femme-fatale usurper.
It’s arguably the greatest cabaret style tale ever told and it has inspired numerous versions on both screen and stage with a host of memorable songs, intrigue and deception. And I have seen it numerous times both in Chicago at the Shubert Theater and most recently at the Ambassador Theater on Broadway where I sat rows back from the stage while Bebe Neuwirth (2006) took on the role of Roxie, her return to the musical ‘s stage having played Velma in the opening days of the musical (1996).
Now the students of McLean High School are presenting Chicago: The Revue, May 27 through 30, 2010. The students are taking on the classical roles, featuring Emma Leiken and Nick Stone in the roles of Roxie Hart and Billy Flynn.
Peformance goers will enjoy the shows’ many familiar musical numbers that led to the production winning the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show. Songs including “All that Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle” as well as the wistful “Nowadays.”
With schools feeling the results of cut-backs in their arts, I hope that you can, as I hope to, get out to see this classical, cabaret offering and support these young performers on their road to Broadway. Or a production being performed at a local school or youth group near you.
McLean High School Performing Arts Department
1633 Davidson Road
McLean, VA 22101
NOTE: Neither the writer, Donne Tempo Magazine, Donne’s World or the Communities at The Washington Times set, control or can be held responsible for final costs or promotional package availability.
Jacquie Kubin is a 15-year, award-winning veteran of travel and culinary writing. Today, Jacquie edits and directs a staff of writers for Donne Tempo Magazine, where you can read more of her entertainment, travel and culinary reviews. Jacquie is always looking for new talents who want to expand their horizons.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.