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The Chicago most theater aficionados think of when they consider that benchmark musical of the Me Generation had its Broadway premiere in June of 1975. With a book by Bob Fosse (who also directed and choreographed the show), music by Fred Ebb, and lyrics by John Kander, that original production ran at the 46th Street Theatre for nearly 1,000 performances. In 1996, Chicago had a Broadway revival, and now holds the record as the longest-running musical revival in the history of The Great White Way (and it’s still playing).

What many theatergoers may not know is that Chicago, the musical, is based on the non-musical play of the same title. That script was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Watkins was the journalist who covered the two separate but equally publicized true-life trials of murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaetner.

Inspired by those early 20th Century crimes, Chicago, the musical, underscores the ephemeral nature of celebrity and the sensationalism that can accompany a capital offense. In 2002, the Tony Award-winning stage musical was translated into an Oscar-winning film (by Director Rob Marshall).

Luckily, for So Cal audiences Chicago, the musical, is currently live in The OC (through July 3) at Fullerton’s marvelous Maverick Theater. Handily directed by Curtis Jerome and Brian Newell, with fine Fosse-like choreography by Jerome (who also designed the dazzling costumes), this “Chicago” packs sixteen performers onto a proscenium stage (set design by Jerome and Newell) that is, to say the least, up close and often in the audience.

What’s more, under conductor Benjamin Sagan, a nine piece band pleasingly blasts out eleven remarkable musical numbers in act one—including that signature Fosse tune, “All That Jazz.” Act two consists of nine more melodies—the melancholy “Mr. Cellophane” is a standout here (sung movingly by Eric Goldstein as Amos) — that are delivered with energy and efficiency by both the musicians and cast members.

An emcee (the appropriately stone-faced Michael Keeney) serves as our guide through this circus of justice. But the narrative is inventively carried by Fosse’s dialog, and the story flows agreeably on top of Kander and Ebb’s music and lyrics. Indeed, song and dance routines such as “When You’re Good to Mama” (sung and danced with sturdiness and skill by Sherry Domerego as prison matron Mama Morton) and “Razzle Dazzle” (performed by Glenn Freeze in a winning portrait of unctuous attorney to the rich and infamous Billy Flynn) serve as character studies in themselves, all the while propelling the plot forward.

In a swirl of “old” media coverage, Billy Flynn is a master of image manipulation, with Roxie and Velma serving in roles created and cast by Flynn—likely a character that inspired Johnny Cochran’s unlikely strategy in the O.J. murder fiasco.

And when we say in-bed with the media, no one longs for a hook-up than nosy news reporter Mary Sunshine (a scene-snatching R.C. Sands). Seeing Flynn as her sex object clearly interferes with Miss Sunshine’s journalistic objectivity. But isn’t that to be expected? Love and lust are in any case subjective passions.

Chicago is a musical that’s best appreciated in the flesh and in real time. This Maverick effort has visceral and intimate dimensions not to be found either on Broadway or on celluloid.

Chicago continues at the Maverick Theater—110 East Walnut Avenue, Fullerton—through July 3. Show times are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturdays. Matinees are on Sundays at 4 p.m. For reservations, dial 714-526-7070. For online ticketing and further information, visit



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.