Local theater company P&J Productions had so much success putting on the satirical Prohibition-era musical "Chicago" in June 2011, actors and producers decided to bring "all that jazz" back for a bigger and better second run.
With a similar cast, but new dancing and music, "Chicago" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona.
Neil Port, who runs P&J Productions with "Chicago" director and actor Will Jones, said he knew there might be a renewed demand for the show when the theater simply couldn't hold everyone who wanted to see it last year.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Starring in P&J Productions rendition of the musical “Chicago” are (from left) Carol Patterson Fedeli as Velma, Will Jones as Billy Flynn and Molly Riva as Roxie.
"People seemed to love it that did see it, so we thought, 'Let's do it again,'" he said.
The production duo offered the same cast their parts for a second time, and about two-thirds of the actors accepted, including the four main characters.
Several more dancers and newly choreographed numbers will accompany the jazz- and ragtime-inspired music of the show. Songs well-known to theater lovers, including "Cell Block Tango" and "Razzle Dazzle," serve as a backdrop for the storyline, based on true events, about a young woman convicted of murder who becomes a celebrity prisoner.
If you go
What: P&J?Production's "Chicago"
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mishler Theatre in downtown Altoona
Tickets: $13, plus $3 box office fee. Tickets are available at the Mishler Theatre box office or by calling 944-9434.
The music and larger-than-life nature of the show are a nice diversion from modern-day realities, Port said.
"I think [the show] is like a lot of good theater in that it's a diversion from all the stuff going on in the world, and all of the stuff you read about in the paper," he added. "You just kind of get lost in the enjoyment factor, in those two hours of escape."
Brittany Hipp of Altoona, who serves as music director for the production, agreed that what's fun about the show is that it very different than real life. She added that the music is very different from the shows she's worked on in the past.
"I like that it's inspired by 1920s jazz, and not a traditional story," Hipp said. "The characters are so evil. ...When you see even a glimpse of good in the characters, it's surprising."
Hipp said she's enjoyed working with the actors, especially because many of the leads came in already knowing the music. Molly Riva of Altoona said playing the murderess Roxie Hart was something she had wanted to do for a long time before landing the role in last year's production.
"Roxie is definitely one of my dream roles," she said. "To play it twice is pretty amazing."
Riva said the cast can't give a copycat performance, as a new audience each night always leads to subtle differences in the show. Riva added she's glad one thing stayed the same - that she'll once again share the stage with Carol Fedeli of Altoona, who plays fellow inmate Velma Kelly.
"Her and I are so close," Riva said.
The two main characters partake in several large song-and-dance numbers during the show. Riva said her favorites include the puppet scene during "We Both Reached for the Gun," along with the iconic "Finale" number.
All new choreography will be presented with this year's production - with three separate choreographers with different specialties lending a hand.
Danielle Lykens of Duncansville, the owner and artistic director for Star Performance Dance Academy, said that she has really enjoyed working in the live theater setting - as opposed to the dance industry.
"It was fun for me to work with adults," she said. "This is one of my favorite shows of all time."
Lykens said locals should take the opportunity to come see the show because of the quality of dancing and acting. More than 20 dancers were auditioned - from as far as State College - for the seven slots that were available in this production.
"[The audience] will have the chance to see a professional Broadway show live in their local area without having to travel to a big city," she said.
Riva said the new elements added to the show should make people who saw it last year want to come back again. Though this is just a hobby for many of those involved with the production, Riva said new audience members should expect a quality theater performance.
"People are so impressed when they see our productions, they say it's almost like we're professionals, even though none of us do this for a living," she said.
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.