Known for its lively jazz, and action-packed story line, “Chicago,” one of the longest running Broadway shows, will be performed at the San Juan Community Theatre this May.
“I love the music. It’s pure entertainment,” said director Margaret Hall, adding that some of her favorite songs are “All that Jazz” “Cell Block Tango,” “All I Care About is Love,” and “Mr. Cellophane.”
The show opens May 5, and for those 20s era jazz enthusiasts, there will be an “Opening Night Speakeasy Party” in the Theatre’s Steele Garden from 6-7 p.m. There will be plenty of appetizers and adult libations available. Dressing up is highly encouraged, and costumes are available through the theater’s costume shop. Tickets for the party are $25. The performance of “Chicago” is at 7:30 p.m. tickets are $23 for adults, $12 student reserved and $5 student rush. Thursdays are pay-what-you-can. Other show times are Saturday, May 6, Thursdays through Saturdays May 11-13 and 18-20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, May 7, and 14 at 2 p.m. Hall warns due to the musical’s themes and language, it is not an ideal performance for young children, or for anyone extremely sensitive.
“I want everyone to know we have not ‘watered down’ the show,” said Hall, explaining that the original non-musical play was written by Chicago Tribune crime reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins. She wrote the story based on the real trials of Beulah May Annan and Belva Gaertner Annan shot and killed her lover in her bedroom when he threatened to leave her, Hall said. Annan then put jazz on her Victrola, a brand of phonograph, or old record player. After sitting there for over an hour listening to music, Annan called her husband at work and convinced him to take the fall. When he connected the dots that it was actually her lover she had killed, and not a burglar as Annan told him, he turned her in. Watkins created the character Roxie Hart after Annan. Belva, Hall said, was a cabaret singer, who shot and killed her lover as they sat in her car. Belva later claimed she was so drunk she didn’t remember doing it. While Belva’s storyline is different in “Chicago,” than real life, the character of Velma Kelly is based on her. Both of the ladies fed the media circus that surrounded their trials, and both were eventually acquitted.
The cast has had fun, Hall said, going back to the wild 20s, a decade when women bobbed their hair, wore short skirts, smoked, drank, and swore. Jazz, which discarded traditional musical compositions gave way to new dances like the Charleston and Lindy Hop. Older generations considered the new music immoral for promoting what Hall called the decadent values of the 20s.
The cast consists of 50 plus islanders, but that did not intimidate Hall, who has directed a number of plays and musicals, including “Brigadoon,” “Woman of the Year,” “Hello Dolly!” “Into the Woods” and “9 to 5” since coming to San Juan Island 25 years ago.
“I love working with big casts. It’s community theater,” Hall said, explaining that she believes the process of creating a production is a full on community event and she tries to utilize everyone who is passionate about the project. Those involved become like big family and can help people get to know each other especially if they are not part of each other’s usual circle of friends, thus strengthening community bonds.
“I knew we have a lot of talented people on this island, but I’m surprised at every rehearsal by the depth of talent here. This is a show you’ll want to see more than once!” Hall said.
For info visit the San Juan Community Theatre website at http://sjctheatre.org. For the box office, call 378-3210.