Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance stages a razzle-dazzle ‘Chicago’
Kander and Ebb classic, onstage Oct. 30 – Nov. 8, features costumes and scenery immersed in the 1920s, Fosse-inspired choreography, and ‘one of the best casts I’ve directed,’ says director Charles Richter
The razzle-dazzle vaudeville-style musical “Chicago,” about two fame-obsessed murderesses in 1920s Chicago, will be presented for the first time on the Muhlenberg College stage, Oct. 30 – Nov. 8. Directed by Muhlenberg theater professor Charles Richter, the show shines a spotlight on America’s obsession with celebrity, as well as showcasing the depth of talent in Muhlenberg’s theater and dance department.
“I think the show says something prescient about the nature of American life and the nature of celebrity,” Richter says, “and it says it with a great deal of wit and some venom.”
The show’s score, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, features the Broadway standards “All That Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango,” “Mr. Cellophane,” and “Razzle Dazzle.” The original production in 1975 was directed and choreographed by renowned Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse, who co-wrote the book with Ebb.
“Chicago” will be presented in Muhlenberg’s Empie Theatre, in the Baker Center for the Performing Arts, Oct. 30 through Nov. 8. Muhlenberg dance professor Jeffrey Peterson choreographs the production, and music faculty member Michael Schnack serves as musical director.
In the city of Chicago in the Roaring Twenties, chorus girl Roxie Hart murders her unfaithful lover and convinces her hapless husband to take the rap — until he finds out he’s been duped and turns on Roxie. While behind bars, Roxie connects with fast-talking lawyer Billy Flynn, who’s got a plan to get her acquitted and make her a star. But Roxie soon finds herself vying for the spotlight with another “merry murderess,” Velma Kelly, a vaudeville performer in jail for killing her husband and sister, whom she found in bed together. Ultimately, the two join forces in pursuit of their own version of American Dream: fame, fortune, and acquittal.
“This is a show that demands a stage full of triple-threats,” adept at dancing, singing, and acting, Richter says. “I’m very excited about this cast. It’s one of the best I’ve directed in 38 years at Muhlenberg.”
“Chicago” was revived on Broadway in 1996 — a production that won the Tony Award for Best Revival, and that is still playing today, holding records as the longest-running musical revival and the longest-running American musical in Broadway history.
“It’s a very different show from the current revival,” Richter says. “The show is fully staged and has elaborate scenery, courtesy of designer Tim Averill. It’s also very much involved with the period of the 1920s in Chicago.”
Performances of “Chicago” are Oct. 30 – Nov. 8. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, with an additional 2 p.m. show on Saturday, Oct. 31. Regular admission tickets are $22. Tickets for youth and LVAIC students and staff are $8. Group and season subscription rates are available.
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg College is a highly selective, private, four-year residential college located in Allentown, Pa., approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, sciences, business, education and public health. A member of the Centennial Conference, Muhlenberg competes in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program in the top twelve in the nation for eight years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.