USD Theatre set to stage musical Chicago

USD Theatre set to stage musical Chicago
The University of South Dakota Department of Theatre will present the popular musical, Chicago, with five performances beginning Friday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Additional performances include 7:30 p.m. shows on Saturday, Dec. 8; Monday, Dec. 10 and Tuesday, Dec. 11. There is also a 2 p.m. matinee scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 9. All shows are at the Wayne S. Knutson Theatre in the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts.

Chicago, based on the play of the same name that was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, is produced in cooperation with USD's Department of Music and with sponsorship support from Barnes and Noble at USD.


Set in the roaring '20s of Chicago, married showgirl Roxie Hart (played by Katie Henrichsen of Sioux Falls) murders a faithless lover. Hart goes to prison where she and Velma Kelly (played by Maggie Conley of Des Moines, IA), another murderess on death row, vie for the spotlight and headlines hoping the publicity will catapult them to fame, freedom and successful stage careers.

Billy Flynn, an opportunistic lawyer played by Greg Gregorson of Sioux City, seeks to save Hart from a life behind bars or worse.

Revived on Broadway in 1996, Chicago was the winner of six Tony Awards. The popular 2002 movie version of the play won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

With Chicago currently playing on Broadway and touring nationally, attaining rights to perform the show at USD involved some persistence and luck. According to Eric Hagen, managing producer of University Theatre, the department was forewarned by Samuel French – owner of the property – that USD probably "would not get the performance rights," so the rights to Grand Hotel were secured as a back up.

"We got the rights (to Chicago) because we are in a rural location and would not be competing with any touring productions," Hagen said. "So when the 'OK' came through on Chicago in mid-summer, we were thrilled."

Nanette Hofer, a third-year graduate student in directing, accepted the challenge of directing Chicago for her MFA thesis project. She was initially drawn to the script because of its theatricality.

"It meshes the world of the characters' outer reality with the world of their inner monologues," Hofer said. "The play still works today because it points out how obsessed society can be with the idea of 'celebrity.' "

Familiar tunes and dance numbers such as All That Jazz and Razzle Dazzle promise to keep audiences entertained in addition to presenting a special challenge to the actors performing the roles. Patricia Downey, who recently joined the faculty at USD as a full-time dance teacher and choreographer, sees the dancing in Chicago as one of its most prominent driving forces.

"Dance in this show is so important to the plot and character development. It's so highly integrated into the story that it just takes the action to the next level," Downey said.

"The dance, music, and dialogue combine to tell the story," Hofer said. "This is quintessential musical theatre."

Tickets for Chicago are $12 for adults, $8 for youth (12 and under) and non-USD students and $5 for USD students with current ID. The University Theatre box office hours, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 28, are from noon to 5 p.m. daily. Reservations can be made by calling (605) 677-5400 or via e-mail at theatix@ usd.edu.

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