In this town, murder is a form of entertainment."
That's the dramatic, but definitely accurate, tagline for the Stage North production of Chicago.
Director Jenn Strachan is eagerly anticipating opening night on Oct. 29.
"This show is probably going to be one of the best ones Stage North has ever put on. And I know saying that as the director doesn't sound good, but at the same time I've been involved with Stage North for almost 10 years and this is one of the biggest casts, I think there's only one or two shows that have been bigger than this, and it looks really polished," she said.
The play is meant to be a satire on the corrupt criminal justice system and the concept of the "celebrity criminal." Krystal Roth, who plays Roxie Hart, agrees.
"The play is from the 1920s, so what it does is unmask what our entire judicial system is all about. Rather than Roxie being punished for what's she's done, it ends up becoming a comical, theatrical event," she said. "They basically make a mockery of it. It doesn't matter if you tell the truth - all that matters is how you sell it and what the public believes."
Strachan and choreographer Emry Mika started the process to secure the rights to Chicago in January, which was not an easy task, as "it's almost impossible to get rights for this show," according to Mika.
Once they landed the rights to perform the show, auditions were held at the end of June, where nearly 60 people expressed interest in taking part.
That number has gone down, but all 37 cast members have been working hard the last several months to learn the songs and dance routines.
Mika has been dancing since she was three years old, and has choreographed a few musicals in recent years. She choreographed all the dance numbers for Chicago.
"I did a lot of research on different styles, I watched a lot of videos and things, but it's all original choreography," she said.
Mika also plays the role of Velma, one of the merry murderesses that is looking to use her ill-gotten fame to launch her cabaret career.
"She's got a pretty big attitude on her. She's used to being the head honcho and having all the attention and she's not really liking it when Roxie comes in and takes the spotlight away from her," said Mika.
To call the characters in the play self-absorbed would be an understatement, according to Gregory Brumwell, who plays lawyer Billy Flynn.
"The one thing about every character in this show is they're all pretty self-centered and they're all about themselves, that's one characteristic that Billy has, but so does every other main character in this play. It's pretty easy to get wrapped up in the little world of the character and not care about anybody else, because you don't, really," said Brumwell.
"[Billy] doesn't, I care about people greatly," he added, laughing.
Roth sees a few parallels between her own life and that of Roxie's.
"She pretty well has the same life I do. Growing up I always thought I was going to be on Broadway, and Roxie Hart always thought she was going to be in Vaudeville," she said.
Roxie's life didn't turn out quite the way she planned, and resorts to murder to try and grab her piece of the spotlight.
"Roxie ends up settling in her life. She finds a man that treats her well - she doesn't necessarily love him, but he treats her well and pays for her things. She cheats on him, you know, she does her own thing on the side, but she's settled. She's never gotten what she wants. She gets let down and sees the opportunity to eventually get what she wants and get into Vaudeville in the end with all the free publicity from the murder," said Roth.
One would think that murdering their boyfriend/husband/lover wouldn't be the smartest way to get into show business, but Mika reiterates that in Chicago, it's the only way.
"By being in the spotlight, it guarantees the reporters are paying attention to you, which means you'll have the public's attention when you get out of jail," she said.
Despite all the murder and mayhem, Chicago is very much a comedy, with just as many subtle jokes as obvious ones.
"It's a funny play and it's ironic and you have to listen closely because there's small little things that are funny and if you don't catch them, the next thing's [already] coming," said Brumwell.
"See it five times if you have to!"
Not only will Chicago be an entertaining evening, Roth feels "that people should come out, not only because they're going to enjoy it, but to support their local community."
"If you want a Broadway style show, that's done by people you know [this is the one to see]."
Chicago runs on Oct. 29 and 30, and again on Nov. 4, 5 and 6. For more information call the North Peace Cultural Centre at 250-785-1992.