With opening night fast approaching, the Wonthaggi Theatrical Group is working around the clock to ensure their production of Chicago is a classy, sassy showstopper. From what Inverloch 3996 has seen and heard during rehearsals it's set to be all that and more....! We caught up with Director Karen Milkins-Hendry to gain an insight into the intensive nature of how this iconic Broadway musical has developed from page to stage.
Karen, we are constantly amazed at the production values the Wonthaggi Theatrical Group achieves - what has been the biggest challenge with Chicago?
Bringing the band and performers together onto one subtle, yet detailed set, depicting the times and places that the scenes require to bring a sophisticated and stylish production inspired by the original, revival and film productions. It was also important to make sure we didn't lose sight of the original Bob Fosse vision for a musical vaudeville piece.
Another huge challenge has been producing the show straight on the back of the highly successful and labour intensive production of Miss Saigon over May/June. Two completely different production teams were needed, which has given people the opportunity to take on new roles.
What has surprised you the most about the production process to date?
What has surprised, and inspired me to be honest has been the leadership and expertise shown by first time major musical lighting designer Mungo Trumble. Mungo is in his second year at the Victorian College of The Arts studying production. He was the first recipient of the Wonthaggi Theatrical Group's Youth Development Scholarship Fund (The Gwennies). The fund was established by founding member Gwen Derrick and is designed to support regional youth to gain skill in the areas of production.
Mungo arrived at bump in (pre-production week) with detailed lighting plans, hired equipment and a schedule all mapped out. Seeing Mungo go from a fourteen your old boy helping out on set at the weekends to this confident young man leading an integral design feature has been a memorable part of the Chicago experience for me.
Chicago is obviously a very stylised production where movement tells a story - any stand out moments for you in pre-production?
Dance experience was the main casting criteria for this production. Both the highly experienced female dance ensemble, and the male ensemble have worked tirelessly with choreographer Rose Wray-McCann to create complex and entertaining pieces. Rose has juggled being both choreographer and cast member with creativity, flair, humour and dedication. She has developed signature numbers that add value, theatrically and pure entertainment to the incredible and famous score.
Tell us something we probably don't realise about what goes into a production of this magnitude?
Probably the sheer volume of people that contribute to bring a production like this to life. I would say there would be at least 100 people working behind the scenes. On any given day from a least six months before rehearsals started, there would be someone either designing, building, ordering, painting, meeting, planning, marketing and communicating across areas as diverse as construction of set, right through to ensuring the bars at the theatre are stocked on the night! - it's a real machine and a huge collaborative community effort. We are blessed with the talent, commitment and friendship of our enormous volunteer base.
During the rehearsals for Miss Saigon I was talking to a first time cast member about what had surprised her the most during her Miss Saigon journey and without hesitation she replied that she had no idea about the enormity of the behind the scenes work. She had been in the audience for the last few years having recently moved to the area and thoroughly enjoyed each show but wryly noted that her next audience experience would have her thinking about the huge process behind it all.
We've loved every minute of working with the Wonthaggi Theatrical Group in creating the imagery to fit their production. Tickets are selling fast and we recommend booking early