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CSUB jazzes it up with its triennial spring musical, "Chicago"

ChicagoThis quarter, the Doré Theatre at CSUB is being transformed into 1920's vaudeville, but with a sinister side. "Chicago" comes alive starting May 19, featuring a huge cast and even larger production crew to bring this story of fame-driven murderesses to the stage.

Every three years, CSUB's theatre and music departments produce a joint musical, and director Mandy Rees has been pining for "Chicago" for a long time. The Broadway version won six Tony Awards and the 2002 film version starring Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones won the Best Picture Academy Award.

"Seven years ago I started trying to get the rights. But because it was touring professionally, they held on to it tightly," Rees said. "I love the music, it makes you want to move and the lyrics are clever. And I like the point of the show: critiquing society. We often celebrate things in our society that we shouldn't celebrate. Here, we're celebrating criminals."

To the tunes of showstoppers "All That Jazz" and "Razzle Dazzle," "Chicago" tells the story of two women on death row – Velma Kelly (Lorna Lynott), a famous vaudeville performer who kills her husband and sister for having an affair, and Roxie Hart (Jessica Boles), a wannabe famous performer who kills her lover. The women scheme to continue seeking fame while behind bars, with the help of lawyer Billy Flynn (Michael Mejia) and warden Mama Morton (Alyssa Wiley).

The production showcases a lot of student talent, with a cast of 28, production crew of 31, and orchestra of 15. Choreographer Marilyn Stone, a CSUB alumna, makes use of some familiar dance steps but also adds a unique quality to the performance. For those who've seen the Broadway version, they'll see the most notable difference in the set.

"The Broadway production is very stark, basically a black box with risers for the orchestra," Rees said. "We've transformed this into a vaudeville theatre, with multiple platforms, a turn table and a circular staircase. It's quite an ambitious set."

Production credits include: Peggy Sears, music director; Ron Christian, conductor; Chris Eicher, scenic and lighting designer; and Roger Upton, costume designer. Original music is by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse.

The CSUB Music and Theatre Departments present "Chicago" at 8 p.m. May 19, 20, 21, 27 and 28, and at 2 p.m. May 29 at the Doré Theatre, 9001 Stockdale Highway. Admission is $10 general, $8 seniors 60+ and CSUB faculty and staff, and $5 students with ID card. Due to adult themes, this musical is not recommended for children under age 13. For more information and to reserve tickets, call 661-654-3150

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