'Chicago' coming to Pleasanton
Satire on corruption makes for a night of musical fun
Murder can be good for you -- unless of course you're the victim -- discover chorus girl Roxie and vaudevillian Velma, as they plot how to make headlines in Prohibition-era "Chicago."
The long-running Broadway musical is coming to the Firehouse Theater next week, presented by the Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre.
"We have someone stunning playing Velma," said director/choreographer Lois Grandi, referring to Nicole Frydman, an equity actor with many credits to her name. "She's the one who's completely exceeded my expectations."
Joy Sherratt, who's worked with Grandi before and is also a member of Actors' Equity, plays Roxie.
"She's absolutely the most perfect Roxie!" Grandi exclaimed.
Grandi, a veteran of Broadway, personally guarantees everyone will love the production. A singer, dancer and actor herself, she has directed more than 75 productions at theaters throughout the country.
"I wouldn't choreograph a show without directing it," she said, "especially this one. My vision is for the whole thing. The movement and the dances are so integrated into the story line -- it all flows into one."
"It is quite an interesting storyline, it's really relevant today," she added. "It's about glorification, women looking for fame, wanting to be stars. They murdered someone and got elevated into stardom."
The male lead is David Judson, who is also the co-founder of the theater group.
"It's an exciting time for both the city of Pleasanton and Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre," he said. "We were just named the Resident Professional Musical Theatre Company for the Firehouse Arts Center. We will be bringing in upwards of three to four professional musicals each year."
The first show was "Cabaret" in January, with the same set designer, Pat Brandon, who "did a miraculous job," according to Grandi.
Music Director/Co-Artistic Director is Pat Parr, the other group co-founder. Producer is Craig Dunlap.
Grandi launched the choreography part of her career with "The Music Man" starring Bert Parks.
"I was about 22 years old, in a big summer production in Minneapolis and someone gave me the job so I went to work," she recalled. "I did all preparation and found out, 'Gee, I love doing this.'"
She was already singing and dancing on Broadway but said her 4 foot 11 height prevented her from joining any chorus line -- she could only land leading roles. She worked with Bob Fosse, who choreographed the original Broadway "Chicago," and she is doing this production in the Fosse style.
Grandi was dating Robert Duvall when he urged her to take acting lessons in addition to singing and dancing when she had just completed a tour in the lead of "The Sound of Music."
"It was the beginning of a whole new world for me," Grandi said. "Most of the 70 productions I've directed have been plays. I love to get deep into behavior and what makes people tick. That really turns me on."
But so does directing and choreographing "Chicago" at the Firehouse Theatre.
"The dancers are dancing all up and down the steps -- it's very complicated but as a result it's going to be phenomenal," she said. "It's a wonderful venue, really a beautiful new comfortable way to see a show. I'm loving working there."
Check out Roxie's moxie