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Holy Cross’ Alternate College Theatre to Present America’s No. 1 Longest Running Musical ‘Chicago’

Alumna Christine Freije ’13 returns to campus to direct student-run musical
January 25th, 2016 by 

The Alternate College Theatre (ACT), a student-run organization at the College of the Holy Cross, will present “Chicago,” written by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, with script adaptation by David Thompson and music by John Kander. Recent graduate Christine Freije ’13 will return to campus to direct the production; Erik Schneider ’16 and Tim Rice ’16 will co-produce the play. “Chicago” tells the story of two women accused of murder, who use their notoriety to advance their careers. Performances will be held in the Fenwick Theatre, located on the second floor of O’Kane Hall, on Feb. 4-6 at 8 p.m., and Feb. 6-7 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $10 for members of the Holy Cross community, $15 for the general public, and can be reserved by calling the ACT box office at 508-793-3536.

“Chicago” the musical is based on the 1926 play, “Chicago,” written by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, inspired by actual criminals and crimes she reported on. The story was intended to be a satire about the corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of a “celebrity criminal.” The original Broadway production opened in 1975, and after the musical’s revival in 1996, it is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. Set in the Prohibition Era of the late 1920s, Roxie Hart meets Velma Kelly when she is locked up in Cook County Jail. With Velma, a vaudeville star accused of murdering her sister and husband, Roxie enlists the help of lawyer Billy Flynn and the Matron “Mama” Morton in order to achieve tabloid fame, vaudeville gigs, and the admiration of the public. This dark, brilliant musical dives deep into a world in which crime is entertainment, virtue is mocked, innocence is punished, justice is for sale, and everything, especially fame, is fleeting.

“Chicago” being an intensively involved musical of excellent reputation, may have seemed like a tall order for ACT.  But after considering such factors as the strengths of student actors, budget, dancing, availability of rights, and ACT’s own creative vision, the group felt that “Chicago” fit their needs perfectly. “We have a strong choreographer, several upperclassmen who are strong singers and actors, and a team that was really inspired by the material,” Freije says about putting on this well-known play.

“People will definitely come into this production with certain ideas and expectations based on their past experiences of the show,” Freije explains, when asked of the pressure such a performance might have on a student-run group. The show demands everything to be a bit bigger than typical ACT productions. With 17 people in the cast, an extensive backstage crew, and a fairly complicated set with moving components, Freije and her team have big ambitions for the final product. “It’s also exciting to be working on a show that is so beloved by so many,” Freije says.

In addition to her co-producers, Freije’s team includes: choreographer Carly O’Brien ’17, vocal directors Phil Losquadro ’18 and Hannah Gabriel ’17, music director Meaghan McGeary ’16, set designer Thomas Kehoe ’17, lighting designer Christopher O’Neil ’17, costume designer Lexi Elracher ’17, and stage manager Julia Dunn ’16, who was an assistant stage manager for “Spring Awakening,” which Freije also directed her senior year.

Since graduating, Freije has been pursuing a career in theatre, primarily as a director.  She worked as a directing assistant with the Berkshire Theatre Group on a production of “The Lion in Winter” the summer after graduation.  That fall, she moved to Philadelphia and spent a year working as an apprentice at the Walnut Street Theatre.  When she returned to Massachusetts, she began work as a teaching assistant at a theatre camp in Wellesley.  After “Chicago,” she will be returning to Philadelphia to work with a theatre collective of emerging artists known as Reject Theatre Project to produce an original adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” in the spring, as well as working as an assistant director at Theatre Horizon.

ACT is one of the largest and oldest student groups at the College. ACT provides a venue for students – both theatre majors and non-majors – to put their skills to work. Students are responsible for all aspects of production – directing, designing, and producing, as well as performing.  The theatre department provides artistic advice and technical supervision.’

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