Chicago the Musical

Photo courtesy of the Civic Theatre

The real murderesses that inspired the story—Belva Gaertner, right, and Beulah Annan, left.

“Welcome. Ladies and gentleman you are about to see a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery—all those things we all hold near and dear to our hearts.” That’s the first line of the musical, Chicago, and it sets the stage perfectly for the exciting story of booze, jazz and getting away with murder. The music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb along with the unique, intricate choreography—originally choreographed by Bob Fosse—work together to tell a tale of murder and scandal as a form of entertainment!

The Civic Theatre, here in downtown Fort Wayne, is currently in the middle of their production of the musical Chicago, and I am fortunate enough to be a proud member of the cast!  We began rehearsals on September 12th, mastering the jazz and vaudeville-inspired songs and intricate Fosse-style choreography.  I’ve loved being able to volunteer my time and get involved with the vibrant music, arts and cultural scene we have here in Fort Wayne—especially downtown. I’m honored to be able to work with this talented cast and crew to create such a fantastic production to share with our community.

The musical is based on a play by Maurine Dallas Watkins.  Set in—of course—Chicago, during the roaring 20s, this musical follows the story of wanna-be-star, “Roxie Hart” who starts off the show shooting her lover, “Fred Casely,” in the middle of the first musical number.  Roxie’s sent to the women’s prison, where she’s taught the art of working the press to get away with her crime by her sleazy, but brilliant, lawyer, “Billy Flynn.” She also meets the “Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail” and among them is “Velma Kelly,” the cabaret singer who allegedly shot her husband and sister for having an affair.  And even though it may sound like a serious plot, it’s sprinkled with plenty of songs, dance and humor along the way!

But what most people may not realize is that the musical is based on a true story. Maurine Dallas Watkins, the playwright to first bring Chicago to life, was a reporter in the 20s. Among the cases she followed were two female murderesses—Belva Gaertner, a twice-divorced cabaret singer, and Beulah Annan, a young bookkeeper at a local Laundromat (see photo to above—Belva Gaertner, right, and Beulah Annon, left). As you may have guessed Belva, described as the “most stylish of Murderess Row,” became the inspiration for the character of “Velma Kelly” and Beulah, the “beauty of the cell block” inspired “Roxie Hart.” Both women were acquitted by an all-male jury and were said to have been corrupted by jazz, liquor and men.

Sound exciting? There is still time to check out the show this weekend, November 11th, 12th and 13th. Go to the Civic Theatre’s website to find out more information about show times and tickets, but hurry because they’re selling fast. We had two sold out shows last weekend! It’s been such a blast to be apart of an amazing team and contribute to this artistic and thrilling production of the musical Chicago. Hope to see you this weekend!

[cast photo courtesy of the Civic Theatre]

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