Broadway play ‘Chicago’ set to hit Valencia’s theater program


James Tutten / Valencia Voice

Rachel Rees, who plays Velma Kelly, going through her lines during rehearsal

EAST CAMPUS — A group of actors from Valencia, UCF, and the Central Florida community are currently rehearsing for their upcoming performances of the highly acclaimed musical “Chicago” at Valencia College.

With less than a few weeks left to prepare for opening night at the Performing Arts Center of Valencia’s East Campus on Oct. 18, the large cast is hard at work perfecting their dialogue, stage blocking, dancing and musical numbers. Final parts of this musical puzzle are still being positioned as the entire cast and crew finalize all the necessary details.

Overall, the attitude of the cast is upbeat and positive under the guidance of John DiDonna, Valencia College’s new theatre department program chair.

When DiDonna was asked what he thinks about this current production he said “Great dancing, great singing, and a gorgeous and talented cast. What more could anyone ask for?” DiDonna admits that he has a love-hate relationship with musicals and added “For me; I need to pick one that I can associate with, that I can really tap into a story with, and ‘Chicago’ is one of those.”

“Chicago” is one of the most popular and successful Broadway musicals of all time. The Broadway revival of the musical in 1996 won six Tony Awards, and a 2002 major motion picture based on the musical won six Academy Awards including best picture. Characters and events in “Chicago” are based on real life crime stories from 1920s Chicago during the Prohibition-era. The story deals with corruption in the criminal justice system and a rise in the public’s fascination with “celebrity criminals.”

One of the standout character performances from this version of “Chicago” is Roxie Hart, who is played by UCF theatre major Nicole Visco. She brings a high level of sassy style to her acting and has performed in around 20 productions before, most of which were musicals.

“Character wise, I think Roxie is a big challenge to portray,” said Visco. “Because this show has so much fantasy and so much reality it’s almost two separate characters.” Visco thinks about performing with a grand vaudevillian style for the fantasy portions of the show, and draws inspiration from what she imagines it’s like to be in jail for the serious reality segments of the production.

Strong female characters require strong male roles to help balance out their performance, and that can easily be found in Billy Flynn. Flynn is a dashing and debonair trial lawyer played by JohnMichael McDonald, a second year theater major from Valencia College.

“Its going to be a phenomenal show and are director John DiDonna is phenomenal, I love his direction style,” said McDonald. Modeling his character on classic lawyer portrayals like Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird,” McDonald praises DiDonna on his open approach with actors he trusts. “He gives us the opportunity to take our characters and do what we want with them, and feel our way through that.”

Valencia College Theater will only have seven performances of “Chicago” on select days from Oct. 18 through 27. Evening performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26, with early matinee shows at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20 and 27.

A special one time only event will also be held after the performance on Oct. 25, with the cast and crew engaging in a talk-back with the audience about the production.

Ticket costs are $15 for general admission and $12 for students, seniors, faculty and alumni. A special $2 discount is available for advanced online ticket purchases by using the code “VALENCIAWEB”.