The prohibition era will razzle dazzle the Constans Theatre's audience in the upcoming production of the beloved musical "Chicago." The show originated on Broadway long before the 2002 film release. Produced by the UF School of Theatre and Dance, the show will feature performances by undergraduate and graduate fine arts students.
As I interviewed the spirited cast of "Chicago," I realized the group would more aptly be referred to as a family.
During the rehearsal of the quintessential "Chicago" song, "The Cell Block Tango," the family came alive.
Director Tony Mata gave the cue. Seconds after, six young women who like to call themselves "Tony's Angels" dragged simple chairs across the stage. As the piano started, Mata called, "Hold." Unfazed, the performers sat in their seats and began to chitchat. One of the actresses politely excused herself to the restroom, and as she walked away, she slid and fell on the freshly cleaned stage. Laughter erupted from all who witnessed the fumble.
"Quiet on stage please!" stage manager Janiel Myers, a 19-year-old theater sophomore, barked from the control booth.
That sparked Mata's interest.
"What happened?" he exclaimed.
Myers and Mata are definitely the behind-the-scenes parents in this family, and the actors and actresses are the bantering brood of brothers and sisters.
Musical theater senior Katrina Asmar, who plays Velma Kelly in the show, said she is excited about playing opposite her friend Taylor Rector, the musical theater senior who plays Roxie Hart.
"She is, like, my best friend, and we get to be the dynamic duo at the end. It was just really lucky,"
As they awaited the start of rehearsal, Rector sat on Asmar's lap, recounting the details of her day. Rector questioned Asmar on her eating habits, making sure she was ready for what would be an exhausting rehearsal.
The entire cast is close. They share an intense camaraderie and comfort that one rarely sees onstage but plays a major role in how the actors perform.
"We have been working a lot on delving into the relationships throughout the show and even how the ensemble can react with each other and with me," Asmar said of how the cast relates.
The cue-to-cue rehearsal was slow moving - which Myers forewarned me about - but promising. The singing brought chills to my arms, and the actors exuded confidence and talent.
"Getting all the elements together and getting on the stage is so much more exciting and exhilarating. You are playing for such a different medium than just a dance studio," Rector said of finally rehearsing in the theater.
Mata prides himself on his dedicated cast, and he holds them to their commitment onstage and off.
"This is a very large show, and a lot of work has gone into this. Our set, our costumes and our lighting will be very different, all one of a kind. People like to copy Broadway, but I think that's like cheating," Mata said.
Appropriately, this production cannot and should not be compared to the Broadway or Hollywood version. This is the Mata version.
"Chicago" will run Nov. 11 to 12 and Nov. 15 to 18 at 7:30 p.m. with special 2 p.m. shows held on Nov. 13 and Nov. 20. Tickets can be purchased at the University Box Office or online through ticketmaster.com.
Mata urges those who wish to see the play to buy their tickets early and said that they always have a waiting list for the second week of shows.
"Get your tickets now," he said. "Certain shows will sell out quickly."