This weekend, the big city is coming to the small one in Genesee Community College's production of "Chicago."
"I've always wanted to do 'Chicago,' but we've never had the right people together at the right time," says Director Maryanne Arena. "It's been a dream of mine, and a dream of Patti [Simmons, the choreographer]'s. She's someone that I respect very much, and we just thought that if we don't do it now, we never will."
"Chicago" is an exciting show that is all about jazz, sex and fame -- and the lengths people will go to for all three. Set in the title city during the Prohibition Era, the musical centers around two imprisoned murderesses awaiting trial in Cook County Jail: Roxie Hart (portrayed by Kiara Davis), who dreams of being a Vaudeville star, and Velma Kelly (played by Jessica Francis), who already is one. Both are clients of the smooth lawyer Billy Flynn, and will do anything for the spotlight.
Those only familiar with the movie version, starring Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, will find the stage version to be slightly different, with a dark, minimalist set and mostly black costumes.
"The stage version is more like a Vaudeville show," says Arena. "The show is traditionally done with practically no sets, and all in black. But that wouldn't transfer to the screen properly; it wouldn't hold anybody's attention. The movie is done as though it's all inside Roxie's head, so it could be done in a very flashy way."
Arena says she doesn't believe the show is as racy as its reputation makes it out to be.
"It's about life in the Twenties," she says. "There was murder then, just like there's murder today."
Johnny Dow, who has the role of Billy Flynn, agrees: "I've seen worse. The reaction will depend on the audience."
Every performance will be unique, as two of the lead characters, Billy Flynn and Amos Hart, have been double-cast. Dow will be portraying Billy in the Thursday and Saturday performances, while Norm Gayford will have the role on Friday and Sunday. Roxie's husband Amos will be played by Richard Torres on Thursday and Friday, and Rob Reiss on Saturday and Sunday. Arena decided to split the parts because all auditioned equally well:
"Each of them approached their role differently, with different voices, even a different way of walking. They all deserve it."
Dow, a GCC student, says that although he and Gayford play the same part, they have created very different characters.
"Norm's more realistic, and I wanted my Billy to be more surreal. Mine is very cheesy."
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. General admission ticket prices are $8 for adults, $5 for students, seniors (55+) and GCC faculty, and $3 for GCC students with a valid ID.