“Chicago” cast turning grit into glitz

Kelsey Francis, Tim Stompanato and Stephanie Seward will star in the musical "Chicago" opening Fri., April 19. Eileen Eitrheim/The Buzz.
Kelsey Francis, Tim Stompanato and Stephanie Seward will star in the musical “Chicago” opening Fri., April 19. Eileen Eitrheim/The Buzz.

Merry murderesses, glittering chorus girls and jazz cabarets set the tone for the hot-off-the presses vaudeville musical, “Chicago,” which is set to dazzle the Galvin stage April 19-21. And behind each painted smile will be an actor whose rehearsal face started out more confused and sweaty than the audience might ever believe.

The students and faculty of the St. Ambrose University Theatre Department have been working on “Chicago” since the end of February. Any theatre production takes ample time and dedication. But mixing in music and detailed choreography styled à la Bob Fosse has amped up rehearsal time commitment for the 22-member cast.

Senior theatre major Stephanie Seward immediately dived in to rehearsals to master her character, Velma Kelly. A leading role demanding a triple-threat performer, Seward knew it would put her years of dancing, acting and vocal training to the test. She has been inspired to work even harder seeing the dedication of the rest of the cast.

“Everyone’s putting in the same amount of [rehearsal] time, which is not something you always get,” Seward said. “and it’s really cool to see how much everyone cares about the show.”

But not every cast member has had equal amounts of training in all three areas of performance. There are singers learning to dance, dancers learning to sing, and singers and dancers learning to act. For senior history education major Derek Dixon, “Chicago” is his first show at St. Ambrose. In fact, it will be only his second time doing a show—the first being his high school’s production of “Cinderella.”

“The dances are really difficult since I’m not a dancer,” Dixon said. “Sometimes I’m thinking so much about the moves that I forget them.”

His vocal training has made memorizing music an easier task than learning dances. Despite the hard work, Dixon hasn’t been discouraged from enjoying the rehearsal process and getting to know the other actors.
“I’m really glad I did this,” Dixon said. “I’m looking forward to the performances and knowing that we put on a good show for people.”

There to lend cast members an extra hand on dancing is senior theatre major Amanda Kochanny. As the dance captain, Kochanny has her hands full learning the choreography for every production number while staying sharp on playing her own role as Liz.
“Just being able to know the dances is totally different than being able to teach them,” Kochanny said. “And not everyone learns the same way.”

But each cast member knows individually what he or she must work on the most and will continue to polish the production right up until show time. With numbers like “Cell Block Tango” and “Razzle Dazzle,” the audience can expect to be swept away by the fast-paced, edgy whirlwind that was life in 1920s Chicago.

Performances will be Fri., April 19 and Sat., April 20 at 7:30 p.m., and Sun., April 21 at 3 p.m. Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased through the Galvin Fine Arts Box Office or online at http://www.sau.edu/galvin.


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