Foothills Theatre to stage ‘Chicago’

Jennifer Kleinheksel and Amy Cockerham practice a scene from the upcoming Foothills Theatre production of “Chicago” as the company looks on.

The Foothills Theatre cast of “Chicago” rehearses a dance number for their upcoming performance scheduled for July 24-26 at Dixon Auditorium.

Foothills Theatre performers will be rolling their stockings down and painting the town red this summer with a production of the musical “Chicago.” Set in the 1920s, the show is full of big dance numbers, and tells the story of two murderesses who gain fame and fortune from their crimes. The play will be performed at Elkin High School’s Dixon Auditorium July 24-26.

“I love that Foothills Theatre is embracing a bit more of a racy and daring show like ‘Chicago,’” said Jennifer Kleinheksel, who plays Velma Kelly, one of the shows leading ladies. “It is a fun show that will captivate the audience not only with its plot, but also with all of the dance numbers.”

Kleinheksel is a veteran performer with Foothills Theatre. She was last seen on stage in Elkin as Nancy in “Oliver!” She said she is thrilled to be performing this summer as a sassy vaudeville singer and dancer.

“What I like most about my character is that she is tough, sarcastic, sexy, and witty,” Kleinheksel said. “It is fun to get to play such a strong character.”

Kleinheksel also praised her fellow cast mates who already have been putting in plenty of hours learning the music and dances for the show.

“This cast is extremely hard working and dedicated to putting on a great show. The audience will not be disappointed,” Kleinheksel said.

The play gets off to a rollicking start with the number “All That Jazz” and continues with upbeat jazzy songs like “Cell Block Tango,” “Nowadays” and a big dance finale, “Hot Honey Rag.”

Scott Carpenter, a local actor with more than 30 shows to his credit, will be playing the role of lawyer Billy Flynn. He was most recently seen on stage in Mount Airy as Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He described the music as “up” and “peppy” and said that even though the subject matter of murder could be seen as dark, the upbeat music creates a fun show.

Amy Cockerham, a newcomer to Foothills Theatre, said, “I’m most looking forward to playing the character of Roxie and being able to portray her on stage.” Cockerham has performed previously in productions by the Surry Arts Council in Mount Airy.

The production of “Chicago” has been two years in the planning and one that repeat performers with the group are excited to finally bring to the stage, explained Director Leighanne Martin Wright. Wright has directed 19 shows at Elkin High School and 15 Foothills shows as well as garden performances at Foothills Arts Council including the recent “Road Trip,” which she authored.

“If you look back at the shows Foothills Theatre has done over its 47-year history, many titles have been done more than once and many require a huge cast with children. Two years ago, the group got the idea to do ‘Chicago’ — a more adult-themed musical — for a bit of a change. It took applying for the rights a couple times over those two years before we were granted permission to perform the show,” Wright explained.

This very different type of show will be a challenge, Wright said, but one the group is happy to take on.

“The show is unique in that it relies heavily on singing and dancing with minimal sets and a more abstract feel to the staging. It will be a challenge, but I feel with the caliber of people we have, we are more than up to that challenge — and much of that will be due to Kim Arnold’s choreography and Brittany McCollum’s vocal coaching.”

As with all of Foothills Theatre’s musical productions, there will be a live orchestra. In this production their role will be even more integral to the show as the band will be on the stage with the actors. Performing in the orchestra will be pianist Thomas Jackson, Jonathan McMillan on drums, saxophone player Carlos Tolbert, Guy Kelpin on trombone, Doug Woodard on trumpet and bass player Josh Casstevens.

The cast includes Jennifer Kleinheksel of State Road as Velma Kelly; Amy Cockerham of Mount Airy as Roxie Hart; Scott Carpenter of Mount Airy as Billy Flynn; Lori Rice of Elkin as Matron Mama Morton; Morgan Harrison of Boonville as Amos Hart; Susan Lawrence of Mount Airy as Mary Sunshine; David Nielsen of Elkin as Fogarty and the judge; Dan Durst of Kernersville as Fred Casely; and as the Merry Murderesses — Sally Bryant-Whitaker of Dobson, Mary Johnson of Elkin, Mary Keller of Elkin, Brittany McCollum of Elkin, Kitsey E. Burns of East Bend, Susan Lawrence of Mount Airy, and Melissa Lawrence of Mount Airy; Dustin Bledsoe of Dobson as Martin Harrison; Neil Green of State Road as Harry and Aaron; Nicole Freeman as the conductor; and in the ensemble — Donna Absher of Elkin, Donna Williams of Elkin, Claire Grider of Elkin, Molly Gibson of Hamptonville, Savannah Mabe of Jonesville, Anna Taylor of Elkin, and Ally Gentry of Elkin.

Performances of “Chicago” will be in Dixon Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on July 24 and 25 and 2:30 p.m. on July 26. Tickets are $10 and available at the door prior to the performances.

Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.

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