Roxie vs. Velma… and all that jazz

The Connecticut Theatre Company cast of ‘Chicago’ perform ‘The Cell Block Tango’ at a rehearsal for the musical at the Repertory Theatre in New Britain. The show continues this weekend and next.

The Connecticut Theatre Company cast of ‘Chicago’ perform ‘The Cell Block Tango’ at a rehearsal for the musical at the Repertory Theatre in New Britain. The show continues this weekend and next.

Sasha Brown is Velma Kelly in the Connecticut Theatre Company production of ‘Chicago.’

Sasha Brown is Velma Kelly in the Connecticut Theatre Company production of ‘Chicago.’

'Chicago' is now being performed at the Repertory Theatre by the Connecticut Theatre Co.

‘Chicago’ is now being performed at the Repertory Theatre by the Connecticut Theatre Co.

Michelle Rocheford Johnston as matron, left, Sasha Brown as Velma Kelly, and Alyssa Serrambana as Roxie Hart rehearse a scene from the Connecticut Theatre Company production of ‘Chicago.’

Michelle Rocheford Johnston as matron, left, Sasha Brown as Velma Kelly, and Alyssa Serrambana as Roxie Hart rehearse a scene from the Connecticut Theatre Company production of ‘Chicago.’

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By MIKE CHAIKEN
EDITIONS EDITOR
It’s kind of like the Red Sox vs. the Yankees.
But rather than choosing between teams with power sluggers, fans of the musical “Chicago” get to choose between power divas.
At the heart of the show created by by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse, are the characters “Roxie Hart” and “Velma Kelly.”
Velma is the cause célèbre of 1920s-era “Chicago,” accused of killing her husband and her sister when she discovered their affair. Now in prison, Velma is looking to cash in on her celebrity status as the murderer du jour and resurrect her slumping vaudeville career. In walks Roxie, who is accused of murdering her lover. Along the way, Roxie usurps Velma’s status as the star of the front pages of old Chicago.
Connecticut Theater Company is currently performing the musical at the Repertory Theater in New Britain until Sept. 7.
Zach Cote of Bristol, the lead male dancer, said the creators of “Chicago” are pretty much even handed in how they portray both Roxie and Velma. At least from the artistic point of view, he noted, no favoritism has been played.
But, that doesn’t mean the audiencetreats both fictional characters equally.
Zach said, of the two women characters, he said he liked Velma the best “just because of her originality.”
“Roxie never would have gotten to where she was in the show if she wasn’t following all of these murder stories she was hearing about in the papers,” said Zach. “She was a huge fan of all of these cabaret girls like Velma Kelly. So looking up to Velma Kelly sparked her little mishap with Fred Casely (the lover she shot).”
Velma also gets another vote from former Bristol resident Gina Fowler, who plays Mona in the Connecticut Theater Company production.
“I really enjoy her character,” said Fowler. “I just love the fact she’s a has-been and she’s trying to catch up and make another name for herself after she’s been forgotten.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Sasha Brown of Middletown, who plays Velma in the CTC production, favors her own character.
“I like that she seems really strong… She doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do. She’s her own woman. She’s independent. She made her career by herself.”
Again, it shouldn’t be any surprise, since she plays Roxie, Alyssa Serrambana also favors her own character in the show. “She’s kind of despicable, which I always love,” Serrambana said of Roxie. “She’s like this fierce despicable woman who’s going to do what she has to do. You kind of love to hate her.”
As for what the actors think of “Chicago,” as a work of art, Serrambana said, “I think what’s great about this show is that there is a lot of [choreographer Bob Fosse’s work] in it. I like that really dark and sexy thing. I’m really a fan of [Fosse’s other well-known musical] ‘Cabaret,’ so this show is really fun because it’s really similar.”
“I definitely love the music,” said Brown. Plus, she said, “The 20s is definitely where it’s at. The dresses, the time period, the make up, the hair. Everything about the 20s. I love the 20s.”
“Every number is a number in itself,” said Cote of the show. “Everything is very show-offy-. Everything is so vaudeville. Everything I love.”
“I just think [the musical ‘Chicago’ is] a cool way to show a little snippet of how Chicago was in the ‘20s and how you could get a way with murder if you had enough money,” said Fowler.
The Connecticut Theatre Company production of “Chicago” continues through Sept. 7. Performances are 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays at the Repertory Theater, 23 Norden St., New Britain. For more information, go to ConnecticutTheatreCompany.org
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com

PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN