Augusta Players bring back 'Chicago'

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If you’re in the mood for an evening of singing, dancing and jazzy music, come out to see Chicago – The Musical.

The Augusta Players will present the award-winning musical at Imperial Theatre at 8 p.m. Feb. 24-25 and 3 p.m. Feb. 26. Tickets are available at www.augustaplayers.org.

This is the second time The Augusta Players have performed Chicago. The group first produced the show in 1993, said director Richard Justice.

“This was before the revival that happened in 1996 on Broadway when Chicago became all the rave. Everybody knows Chicago now,” Justice said.

Chicago originally opened on Broadway in 1975, but it didn’t reach critical acclaim because it opened the same year as A Chorus Line, which swept the Tony Awards, he said.

“It’s funny that everybody knows Chicago now, but the first time the Players did it was before that revival. It was not well-attended because people didn’t know that show,” Justice said. “It’s such a good show, and I don’t think people realized how good it was until the revival came around. It has really taken on a new life.”

Set in the 1920s, Chicago is a story of how sensationalized murder and infidelity had become in the media, even developing entertainment value. The musical features women in prison who are on trial for murder, usually crimes of passion. The story is about journalists and photographers getting the next big story, he said.

“It’s a very, very funny show, too. I don’t think people realize the humor. It’s very funny dialogue. Very clever,” Justice said.

The 2002 movie version of the musical starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger, on the other hand, was very streamlined in its story, he said.

Justice said the musical has adult material, and he doesn’t recommend it for small children.

There are 18 cast members in the local production. Twelve are ensemble members and six are principal cast members, Justice said.

“Everybody in this show is a very good singer. Our strong suit, especially locally, is always our vocals. Our dancing we’re learning how to do really well. Acting is always a good strong point for us,” he said.

The cast is relatively small compared to the 50 cast members in A Christmas Carol and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, this season’s earlier productions. The upcoming production of The Sound of Music will have 40 cast members, he said.

“The style of the show is very vaudevillian in the fact that everything is presentational to the audience. It’s like a show,” Justice said. “The audience is a participant of the show, as opposed to a spectator. Everything is introduced as a number to the audience. They sing into a microphone as opposed to acting out a scene like so often in musical theater.”

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