TWIN FALLS — “Chicago” is a dark production.
The musical proudly announces that murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery are traits humans hold most near and dear to their hearts. The set is all black with minimal props. And most of the actors wear strappy black costumes.
On paper, the show sounds like it should be a complete drag.
But in practice, the Magic Valley Repertory Theatre’s production of “Chicago” doesn’t have to be as razzle-dazzle as other shows. The bleak subject matter and dark setting help the charismatic cast really shine, ensuring that nothing distracts from their performances.
“This is an amazing show about terrible people,” Director Jared Johnson said.
“Chicago” is a satire musical about two murderesses, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, who are awaiting trial after killing their lovers. They quickly become celebrities with the help of smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn, manipulating the media into sensationalizing their crimes. Roxie and Velma battle in the press to stay relevant using any means necessary.
While the power of the media can be a polarizing topic, Johnson said he hopes it makes audience members think come to their own conclusions.
Right in the middle of the stage, between the pitch-black set and the charming performers, is a live jazz band. It’s the first time in 10 years that a full band has been used in a production at the Orpheum. Ryker Harrison, the musical director for the Magic Valley Repertory Theatre, said the play showcases the band more than any other recent show.
The bare-bones set is used to give the performers plenty of space to dance and move.
In most plays, the set includes things you see in everyday life, like a home or a street scene. But the nature of “Chicago” doesn’t allow for a traditional set, Johnson said. The only set is a second level from which the cast descends.
“Chicago” is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. The music is catchy, and as Roxie (Meghan Burnham) said, the show taps into people’s morbid curiosity.
“Chicago” has been a long time coming for Jonhson. Before he worked on this show, he wanted to practice with a dance-heavy play, so he warmed up in 2016 with “Cabaret.”
It’s also been a long time coming for Hailey Hillstead, who plays Velma. Playing the character has been a dream of hers for years.
“I’ve secretly always wanted to be Velma,” Hillstead said. “It’s been a challenge tapping into that evil side of myself.”