Theatre professor Anne Marie Stewart said that since the opportunity has presented itself once again, the theatre department is going to deliver a show that she could best describe as full of passion: "Chicago."
Stewart, who is serving as the director, said that the time has finally come to utilize the main stage for a big performance.
"As a director, it was just time to try something new," she said. "I've been working in the studio for two years and wanted a new challenge."
That challenge comes in the form of a six-time Tony, two-time Olivier and one-time Grammy award-winning musical turned Academy award-winning film. Stewart said that the show is bound to receive high accolades from audiences.
"The energy of the production is tremendous due to the high quality of the dance, and the music is captivating," she said. "There is a very good reason that it is the longest running show on Broadway."
Set in the legendary city after which the musical is named, "Chicago" tells the tale of two rival murderesses serving time in jail in the 1920s. Cook County Jail houses nightclub star Velma Kelly and driven chorus girl Roxie Hart, who have collectively murdered three people – a husband and sister and a lover, respectively.
Velma recruits prison matron Mama Morton and lawyer Billy Flynn, who essentially prepare Velma for a comeback that makes Roxie reveal the similar tricks up her own showbiz sleeve. What results is a musical full of music and dancing, Broadway-style.
Stewart used the word "amazing" while referring to the student talent.
"One of our leads – Emily Felton, who plays Velma – is actually a freshman, which is really rare," She said. "The rest of our leading actors are pretty seasoned veterans of the Pitt-Johnstown stage and really shine in their roles."
The show was cast in October.
"(It) is an unusually long rehearsal process," Stewart said. "We have taken this show very seriously ... we've been at this for a long time, so we are going to provide a very polished production."
The cast is made up of 25 students and they are being guided artistically by many theatre professionals, including music director Matt Thomas, choreographer Brianne Lees and designers John Teacher and Judy Bingler.
The orchestra is directed by Michael Bodolosky. Pitt-Johnstown students Katherine Steinstra and Justin Harenchar serve as the stage manager and assistant director.
Stewart said that the dedication of the entire cast will be showcased during each performance.
"All shows are tough, but Chicago demands a razor-sharp precision," she said. "If it is going to be done well, it requires talent, dedication and focus at a higher level than other musical productions – and that is true in every moment of the production.
"Chicago offers everything an audience would want from a musical: great jazz dancing, wonderful music, compelling characters and a suspenseful storyline. I think (audiences) will absolutely love it."
Show times are 7:30 p.m. on March 1, 2 and 3. Due to sexual themes, the show is suitable for adult audiences only.
Pitt-Johnstown students can purchase tickets for $5 by showing their student ID at the box office. Ticket prices range from $17 to $25 and can be purchased online at www.upj.pitt.edu/277/, at the box office or by calling 814-269-7200. Tickets will also be sold at the door one hour prior to each performance.