Wednesday, July 6, 2011


The cast of "Chicago," which runs from July 7-23 at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre, will razzle-dazzle you with song, dance and a taler of some jazz babies who are real killer dillers!

When crime and showbiz intersect, it's murder!

There’s nothing new under the sun!

With the media frenzy over the Casey Anthony murder trial still at full throttle, you can experience the live-theater, high-energy, murder-trial-as-public-entertainment musical that John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse created for Broadway way back in 1975. Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s new production of “Chicago” runs from this Thursday (July 7) through July 23rd at the Sharadin Bigler Theatre in Ephrata Community Park.

BTW: There are still tickets available for Wednesday night’s preview performance (that’s tonight … July 6!), which benefits Lancaster PA Pride. Tickets are $30, which includes a reception at 6:30 p.m. and the show at 7:30 p.m. Click here for information and tickets.

While the public’s fascination with murderers like killer-dillers Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly – and their theatrical lawyers – is nothing new, each production of “Chicago” EPAC presents has plenty of new tricks up its sleeve.

I sat in on a rehearsal last week, and saw an extremely entertaining show unfold. The talented cast is filled with high-kicking, youthful energy, and the leads and featured performers really hit it out of the park!

Chicago, of course, is a real “5-6-7-8 …” kind of musical, filled with memorable showtunes and splashy dance numbers. Director Ed Fernandez and musical director J.P. Meyer – also the audience’s emcee for the evening – have molded this production into a fun and flashy piece of theater. The cast does choreographer Kristen Pontz proud. It’s great to see choreography that gives a nod to the Fosse vocabulary but is, at the same time, very much an original.

The Fosse-Kander-Ebb musical “Chicago” is based, in turn, on a 1926 Broadway play written by Chicago journalist Maurine Dallas Watkins. Watkins had covered the 1924 trials of two “jazz babies,” Belva Gaertner and Beulah Sheriff Annan, and based her “Chicago” characters on them, their lawyers and Beulah’s husband.

Come to see EPAC’s “Chicago,” and you’ll see lots of new touches on the show you may know so well.The “Hungarian rope trick,” a.k.a. the execution of one of the Merry Murdesses of the Cook County Jail, is an eyepopping stunt that will make you gasp. Tim Spiese will “razzle-dazzle” you as lawyer-to-the-notorious, Billy Flynn, and his two most spectacularly amoral clients – Roxie Hart (played by Kristie Ohlinger) and Velma Kelly (portrayed by Elizabeth Frank) – will crack you up with their line readings and delight you with their muscular dance numbers.

The guys and gals of the ensemble are a real treat to watch; and oh, those Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail! You won’t know whether to be tickled or appalled!

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen the show on stage, or if you’ve only seen the 2002 film version, don’t feel as if you’ve had the complete “Chicago” experience. The theater version is much grittier than the movie; futher, plenty of additional songs (in the stage show but cut from the movie) await you: “Me and My Baby” (wait until you see the dancing “babies”!), “When Velma Takes the Stand” and “My Own Best Friend,” for example. And, of course, the hilarious “Class,” sung by the classless-and-clueless Velma and Mama Morton (Cynthia Charles) was relegated to the “extras” on the “Chicago” film DVD. Big mistake, there. But you’ll love seeing it in the show at EPAC.

Don’t just stay home watching warmed-over murder-trial coverage! You won’t want to miss this wonderful, rollicking show. For tickets, call the box office at (717) 733-7966, ext. 1, or visit the website.

-- Mary Ellen ("Merv") Wright