It’s already been a long road for Little Fish Entertainment and their Chicago bound journey. With initial planning done over two years ago, it’s a bittersweet time for these powerhouse creatives. We sat down with Director/Producer Sarah Watson, Choreographer and leading lady, Melissa Killen, Technical Designer, Anthony Carlon and master of both on and off stage roles, Duncan Carmichael, to find out more.
For those who might not know the story of Chicago, can you tell us about it?
Sarah: The history of Chicago and how it came to be really is quite interesting. I’ve done a lot of research on the show and how it evolved. Originally a play of the same name, the first edition of Chicago was written by a former reporter, Maurine Watkins. She took the stories she covered on the real Murderess Row during the 1920s and developed a biting satire that opened on Broadway. The story of two guilty femme-fatales who crave fame and fortune and use their moment in the spotlight of crime to manipulate the public and ultimately win their affection using nothing but their talent, wit and charm to successfully have their murder cases thrown out the window – what better stimulus for a musical could there be?
How many people are in the cast; can you tell us a little about them?
Sarah: It was really important to me that this cast was not only able to inhabit the roles, sing the songs and do the choreography as an individual, but to understand that they were going to be part of something bigger than themselves. This is our first large scale musical performance; my focus wasn’t necessarily on who were the best singers, or actors, or dancers we could find, but on bringing together a group of people who could form a true ensemble – who could work together without ego or pride getting in the way of the final product. We have a cast of eighteen incredible people, some of whom have very little, in some case, no stage experience. However, what they do have is charisma, guts, and a willingness to trust in the process and the creative direction.
Each cast member was hand selected by Melissa and me; we knew that the vibe and connectedness of this cast was going to be one of the most important elements of the production. There is, of course, an amazing group of cast members with a wealth of stage experience, with such a diverse range of talent the performances are organic, fresh and raw, much like the original concept for the show.
How long have you been rehearsing for the show?
Sarah: When we first sat down to schedule, I knew that I didn’t want rehearsals to linger over months, mostly for my own sanity, but also because a short and intense rehearsal period has a knack of kicking people in to gear straight away. We started in mid September, which gives us five weeks to make sure the show is performance ready by opening.
Melissa: Our first week of intensive rehearsals was nothing but choreography, and it really was intense. There are fourteen choreographed numbers in Chicago, and we did them all in six days. My brain was very full that week, but now we know it’s possible, and dare I say it, preferred!
What can people expect on the night?
Duncan: This isn’t going to be just your ordinary night at the theatre. We always said we wanted to create something special for our audiences. The right venue was super important to the success of what we want to achieve; the Showground was the only option! The Main Pavilion will be converted in to a 1920s style Speakeasy, with cabaret table seating and lounge area. We want our audiences to be transported the moment they step inside!
Sarah: For us, this production has to be a whole experience from ENT to EXIT (that’s theatre talk). I know the show will speak for itself, but expect a whole lot of (tasteful) lingerie!
What goes into creating a large format musical performance like this?
Sarah: Chicago is without a doubt the biggest endeavour we, as a team, have embarked on – not necessarily because it’s more complicated or technically more complex than other shows we have worked on together, but because it’s personal. It represents who we are. We’re putting ourselves, our passion, our standards, out there for the public to judge, and that in itself is massive.
Anthony: From a logistical and technical point of view, the fact we’re converting a big, empty and historic building in to a fully functioning theatrical venue is no small feat. Everything must be thought of and accounted for in advance, and we’re talking years in advance. All front of house elements, chairs, tables, ticket booths, bars, refrigeration, decorations, staging and technical elements must all be designed to suit the show, then the venue, and the budget.
Sarah: As creatives, we don’t shy away from pushing ourselves to always do better. In fact, I think as a team it’s what we do best. Taking big risks while doing what we love will always be worth it when this team of Little Fish are in it together.
Chicago! The Musical – 1st – 10th November, Main Pavilion, Armidale Showground.