Prohibition Era Musical Extravaganza

March 4th, 2011 by Adam

Plymouth, N.H.–Students in the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance at Plymouth State University will present the musical extravaganza Chicago March 10-13 in the Hanaway Theatre at the Silver Center for the Arts.

Chicago has everything that makes a Broadway musical great—a universal tale of fame and fortune, one show-stopping song after another (“All That Jazz,” “Razzle Dazzle,” “Cell Block Tango”), and great dancing. Bob Fosse choreographed the original production and his style is strongly identified with the show.

The musical, which is set in prohibition-era Chicago, portrays many dark elements common to the times: murder, exploitation, greed, scandalous living, treachery and corruption, while it looks at some celebrities’ pathological need to be idolized.

Chicago is based on a play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, who was assigned to cover the 1924 trials of murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner for the Chicago Tribune.

PSU Director of Theatre Beth Cox said the department picked Chicago because it is a great dance show. “We are fortunate to have contracted guest director and choreographer Kevin P. Hill, who will teach the Bob Fosse dance style. Kevin provides our students a work environment which they would encounter in New York,” Cox said. Hill’s resume includes work on Broadway’s most recent revival of Guys and Dolls. Other credits include Hello Dolly with Carol Channing, 42nd Street, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Kiss Me Kate and many others.

Hill explains that in 1926 Maurine Watkins turned her stories into a play which went on to inspire two movies—a silent film in 1927 and a movie titled Roxie in 1942 starring Ginger Rogers.

“In 2011, the students of Plymouth State University will experience Chicago. They will perform the choreography and vaudevillian style of Bob Fosse, and will tell these amazing stories,” Hill said.

Featured roles in Chicago include: Velma, portrayed by Brandee Peglow of Pelham; Roxie portrayed by Amanda Teneriello of Hudson; Amos, portrayed by Mervin Marvey of Rustenburg, South Africa; Billy portrayed by Andrew Freitas of Acushnet, Mass; Mary Sunshine portrayed by Jason Faria of Hudson, Mass., and Mama Morton portrayed by Jennifer Roach of Highgate Center, Vt. Each is a theatre arts major at Plymouth State.

Music Director Eva Nagorka said two of the most challenging vocal issues facing the performers are sustaining the breath needed to produce the voice while executing fast- paced dance numbers, and not pushing the voice in an attempt to be heard over the on-stage band.

Despite the often hard-driving vocal lines and extended upper-range of many of Kander and Ebb’s melodies, Nagorka said the performers in PSU’s production of Chicago are “selling their songs with vocal strength and clarity, yet a natural delivery required of this dynamic show.”

“The actors in the principal roles have brought the vocal qualities of their characters to life: a spunky Roxy, sultry Velma, piteous Amos, crafty Billy Flynn and rough Mama Morton. Of particular note is the well crafted singing of the character Mary Sunshine,” Nagorka said.

Nagorka, a professional singer, teacher and adjunct faculty at Plymouth State, has appeared on stages throughout New England and is equally at home on the operatic, concert and musical theatre stage.

Performances of Chicago are March 10–12 at 8 p.m., March 12 at 2 p.m. and March 13 at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $19 for adults, $17 for seniors and $15 for youth at the Silver Center Box Office, (603) 535-ARTS (2787) or (800) 779-3869.

General information about events at PSU is available at ThisWeek@PSU,