Haldane Drama to perform saucy musical

New York has done well by Chicago.

The musical, which has been performed more than 10,000 times over the past 28 years on Broadway, will have its Haldane Drama debut from March 22 to 24 on the gritty stage of the school auditorium.

It has long been on director Martha Mechalakos’ punch list. Based on a satirical mid-1920s play written by a Chicago Tribune reporter, it focuses on the trials and tribulations of a gaggle of newly emboldened women accused of murdering their husbands. They work the legal system to draw attention to themselves — stories you might hear today on a true-crime podcast.

The source material proved fruitful to John Kander, who wrote the music, and Fred Ebb, who wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book with choreographer Bob Fosse. 

Presented in a vaudevillian courtroom setting, with many direct addresses to the audience, the show serves up two killers and assorted raucous denizens who plead their case through dance and songs such as “All That Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle.” 

The Haldane production has benefited, Mechalakos says, from the guidance of Christine Bokhour, a veteran Broadway actor who choreographed. 

 Christine Bokhour
Christine Bokhour

“The story, music and lyrics are all so dang good,” says Bokhour, who performed in the musical on Broadway and national tours. “It has revenge and redemption and is chock full of catchy tunes and phrases, then the vaudeville timing — Fosse was born to a Chicago vaudevillian and was a child prodigy tapper — and pace keep you riveted. The dancing sends it to another level.

“The precision Fosse demanded is the most challenging aspect for untrained dancers,” she says. “Aside from the athleticism in much of his work, there is a seeming simplicity when you watch Fosse dancers. But the amount of control it takes to execute those moves and isolations is underestimated — maybe not so much now by the Haldane kids in this production; I haven’t been easy on them. 

“Fosse can be hard even for trained dancers. It’s a style all its own created from his particular set of physical idiosyncrasies. I haven’t replicated the Broadway show here — I can’t even do that choreography now — but there are some places I’ve used original or close to original choreography where possible.”

Christine’s husband, Ray, who spent the better part of 22 years playing Amos Hart in Chicago, mostly on Broadway, has also provided guidance to the actors. (The couple met in 1999 on a national tour.)  

Mechalakos says the Bokhours “bring the insider knowledge of all the bits that aren’t written in the script, which is so much fun for the Haldane actors. And Christine donated several pairs of her Broadway performance shoes. Everyone wanted to wear the shoes that touched a Broadway stage.”

“I love watching light bulbs go on for kids when they grasp a move or a joke or a moment,” Bokhour says.

With all the razzle-dazzle, Mechalakos feels that many productions of Chicago don’t focus on what the show is actually about, which is “our national obsession with celebrity and scandal and the media obsession with such. It’s about inequity and corruption in our criminal justice system, and the cynical idea that crime pays and it’s a circus act, all show business.”

The students will perform the “teen edition” of the musical, which does not include the songs “Little Bit of Good” and “Class” and has other trims and substitutions.

Chicago opened on Broadway in 1975 and ran for two years with Chita Rivera (who died Jan. 30) as Velma Kelly and Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart. Jerry Orbach represented law and disorder as attorney Billy Flynn. The show was revived in 1996.

Haldane Drama will perform Chicago at 7 p.m. on March 22 and 23 and at 2 p.m. on March 24 in the school auditorium at 15 Craigside Drive in Cold Spring. Tickets are $15, or $8 for seniors and students, at showtix4u.com or at the door.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rooney was the arts editor for The Current since its founding in 2010 through April 2024. A playwright, she has lived in Cold Spring since 1999. She is a graduate of Binghamton University, where she majored in history. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: Arts

Leave a comment

The Current welcomes comments on its coverage and local issues. All online comments are moderated, must include your full name and may appear in print. See our guidelines here.