Murder, mayhem, and music mix in Main Street Art’s “Chicago”

Chicago
All that jazz comes to the Bellows Falls Opera House in Main Street Arts’ production of “Chicago.” Photo by Malcolm Blue

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – The stage is set as Main Street Arts prepares to raise the curtain on murder and mayhem at the Cook County jail when its production of “Chicago” opens Thursday, March 28.

The longest-running American musical in Broadway history will have a two-weekend run at the Bellows Falls Opera House, with shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, March 28-30 and April 4-6, at 7:30 p.m., with Saturday matinees both weeks at 2 p.m.

The Jazz Age setting in Chicago’s Cook County jail features a mix of women all charged with murdering their significant others. Under the watchful eye of matron Mama Morton (played on alternate nights by Libby McCawley and Marilyn Tullgren), they plead their cases and hope to catch the eye of jailhouse lawyer Billy Flynn (Izzy Serebrov). But when new cellmate Roxie Hart (Kyla White) comes on the scene, Velma Kelly (Morganna Ekkens) fears she has lost out to the big-time vaudeville star in securing Billy’s help in the fight to win her freedom and her own piece of celebrity.

The play has been described as “a sexy, cynical search for the American dream: fame, fortune and acquittal.” The right lawyer is all it takes to escape justice and become famous, it proposes.

Winner of six Tony awards and two Olivier awards, “Chicago” is based on a 1926 play about actual criminals written by the reporter (played here in the person of Mary Sunshine by Connie Bryan) who covered the crime beat. It features music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse.

Some of its stand-out musical numbers directed by Ken Olsson are “All That Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango,” “When You’re Good to Mama,” “We Both Reached for the Gun,” “Razzle Dazzle” and “Mr. Cellophane.”

The stage design melds the gritty reality of the hoosegow with the bright lights and glitz of the big top, set off by the inventive costumes of designer Liz Guzynski and her bevy of seamstresses. The hoopla includes an aerialist, bubbles, confetti, feathers and a disco ball, with lots of razzle-dazzle dance moves worked up by co-choreographers Shoshana Bass and Annesa Hartman.

Adding to the festivities, there will be a contest at every performance to win prizes to local businesses. Dubbed “Behind the Seams of Chicago,” it involves removing pieces of clothing on a mannequin until the prize is uncovered.

Other performance-related activities include an opening night cocktail party at Popolo restaurant beginning at 5:30 p.m. and a “Speakeasy Spectacular” planned for Saturday, April 6, starting at 9:30 p.m. at Wunderbar restaurant just down the block.

Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, March 28, 29, and 30 and April 4, 5, and 6 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees both Saturdays at 2 p.m. Tickets for reserved seats can be purchased at www.mainstreetarts.org or by calling MSA at 802-869-2960.

MSA advises parents to use discretion because the play contains mild adult themes and the sound of gunshots. Further information, including a complete cast list, can be found on the MSA website.

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