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Everyone's favorite ­— 'Chicago, The Musical' ­— takes center stage at Penn State, New Kensington

| Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
The cast rehearses for “Chicago, The Musical,” playing Nov. 3 to 5 at Penn State, New Kensington.
Felicia Gaston
The cast rehearses for “Chicago, The Musical,” playing Nov. 3 to 5 at Penn State, New Kensington.

A lot of people are just wild about “Chicago, The Musical,” playing Nov. 3 to 5 at Penn State, New Kensington, including the director and cast.

“Chicago is one of my favorite productions. I remember seeing the show back in New York when I was in high school with the Burrell High School drama club knowing that one day I wanted the opportunity to either act or be a part of this production in some way some day,” says director James Baker of Plum.

There was an overwhelming interest when auditions were posted from both Penn State and the community, Baker says.

The cast of 25 is a blend of Penn State students, staff, community members and high school students.

“They are simply incredible,” says Baker who, in addition to directing productions at the school also teaches communications and performing arts full-time at Propel Braddock Hills High School, educational technology as an adjunct professor at Point Park University and is technical director for Greensburg-Salem School District musicals.

“It is exciting to watch a cast come together in such a short amount of time to put on something amazing. The audience will be captivated,” he says.

“Chicago” is a satirical look at fame, justice, and the media machine. It is set in 1920s Chicago, as murderesses Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows.

It remains relevant today, Baker says. “We catch a glimpse of the blurred lines we have between what is right and what is wrong,” he says.

This has always been her “dream show,” says Klase Danko of New Kensington, who portrays Roxie Hart. She is a 2013 graduate of Point Park's Conservatory of Performing Arts.

“It is a show that I have wanted to be a part of for as long as I can remember. When I was in middle school, I actually won the talent show with ‘Nowadays,' a song and dance from ‘Chicago.' ” Danko says.

“This show is sexy and devious,” says Mallory Mousseau Grantz of Oklahoma Borough, a music education student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Grantz, who plays Velma Kelly, has a bachelor of fine arts in musical theater from Shenandoah University and has been performing in musicals since she was 10.

“This might be the most dancing I've done in a show since I had my son. It took some getting used to but I'm up for the challenge,” she says.

“Chicago” is a wonderful opportunity to teach people life lessons through the musical, says Alexander Conte of Cheswick, a sophomore chemical engineering major at Penn State, New Kensington, who also hopes to minor in theater. He plays Amos Hart, Roxie's faithful husband.

“It is an iconic show that catches people off guard because it is very edgy,” Conte says.

Community theater is an incredibly important form of art that needs to be kept alive, Danko says.

“I have always said that my goal in life is to leave the world a better place. I truly believe that theater is a way to do that,” she says. “Not only theater, but movies, music, art of any kind can make an audience forget about their everyday stresses and routines and take them on a journey that leaves them feeling a different kind of happiness or excitement.”

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune Review contributing writer.

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