The May River Theatre Co. is going big when it kicks of its 10th season -- expect big production, big show tunes and big-time talent as the Bluffton community theater presents the musical "Chicago," next weekend.
"This is a show everyone has an interest in. When you say 'Chicago,' everyone says 'Wow,' " said Jodie Dupuis, co-founder of the theater who will direct and choreograph the show. "Ever since the movie came out, people have been enthralled."
The musical, set in Chicago during the Prohibition era, is a satirical look at greed, corruption, scandalous romance and murder. The original Broadway production opened in 1975 and was revived in 1996 to wild popularity. The 2002 movie adaptation generated more fans, capped off by an Academy Award for best picture.
Dupuis first directed and choreographed "Chicago" in 1984 at the community theater playhouse that was on the corner of Dunnagans Alley and Arrow Road on Hilton Head Island. When she and her husband, Ed Dupuis, also a co-founder of May River Theatre, announced they would celebrate the theater's milestone year with the timeless musical, local talent showed their interest and support.
"This is one of the best casts we've ever had," said Jodie Dupuis, who has staged a great many musicals at May River Theatre. "The people came out (to audition) for the show and I was able to pick and choose."
The cast of roughly 30 actors and a four-person orchestra includes familiar faces as well as new talent. Debbie Cort, who local residents will recognize as a TV personality on WHHI, plays Velma. Cara Clanton takes on Roxie and Daniel Cort plays Billy Flynn. The husband-and-wife team of Daniel and Debbie met during May River Theatre's production of "The Pajama Game" in 2005 and have since starred together in various shows.
"Chicago" is Debbie Cort's 10th production at May River Theatre, dating back to 2004. She's played the lead roles in "Jekyll & Hyde" and "Cabaret." Her credits also include professional theater, where she performed in Neil Simon's "The Proposal" and "Cat on a Hot Tim Roof" at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. She and her husband also were in the ensemble of "Les Miserables" at the Arts Center.
Daniel Cort is an original member of May River Theatre, appearing in his first acting and singing role in 2002 in the theater's premiere production of "Thank You, Mr. Loesser." His work outside May River Theatre includes the lead role Gaston in the Arts Center's "Beauty and the Beast." He said he understands the long-standing appeal of "Chicago."
"The show represents what is great about Broadway," he said. "It brings everything that's comical, everything that's kind of serious and slams it all together in a musical frenzy. Audiences have loved it for that reason."
Clanton was introduced to May River Theatre last year when she played Philia in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." The Tennessee native said playing Roxie forces her to step outside her comfort zone.
"I'm not normally the mean type," Clanton said. "This story is so cynical and there are so many funny lines, I can kind of feel for Roxie."