The Downriver Actors Guild heats up the stage with ‘Chicago’

Photo courtesy of the Downriver Actors Guild. The Downriver Actors Guild presents “Chicago” Jan. 20 to 28, with Jessalyn Sturm (left) of Taylor as Liz; Kayla Chavez of Allen Park as Hunyak; and Kayla Aue of Novi as Go-to-Hell Kitty. For tickets or more information, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.

Photo courtesy of the Downriver Actors Guild. The Downriver Actors Guild presents “Chicago” Jan. 20 to 28, with Jessalyn Sturm (left) of Taylor as Liz; Kayla Chavez of Allen Park as Hunyak; and Kayla Aue of Novi as Go-to-Hell Kitty. For tickets or more information, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.

By Sue Suchyta

It may be cold outside, but the action is sizzling inside as the Downriver Actors Guild turns up the heat with “Chicago – the Musical.”

Directed by Denny Connors of Allen Park, the show runs 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20, 21, 27 and 28, and 3 p.m. Jan. 22 and 29 at the Catherine A. Daly Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle Ave. in Wyandotte.

With music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and book by Bob Fosse and Ebb, the show, set in Prohibition-era Chicago, takes a satirical look at celebrity criminals and corruption in the criminal justice system, mixed with Fosse-inspired choreography and sultry songs.

Connors said when DAG approached him to direct “Chicago,” he jumped at the chance.

“‘Chicago’ is timeless, with wonderful music, a great story and style,” he said. “The show is a great opportunity for a director. It lends itself to so many interpretations, and so many ways to present the material.”

He said the show’s connection to Fosse, a Broadway icon he revers, offers additional appeal.

“To be able to re-create or touch something that Bob Fosse presented is not only a challenge but an honor to me,” Connors said.

He said he likes the classic black style of show in the recent Broadway revival, which he hopes to re-create.

“It’s sleek, sexy and classy,” he said. “The audience can expect scantily clad women, and gentlemen in form-fitting clothing.”

Connors said he is focusing on the dark comedic elements while also bringing out the emotions at the heart of the story.

“There are very deep and touching moments in the show that I am bringing forward,” he said. “The show is a lesson in morality, the erosion of values in society, and the effect the media has on public perception, all wrapped up in a bow.”

Lucinda Chavez of Allen Park, who plays Matron Mama Morton, said she has gone full circle with the show, having played Hunyak in the 1980s and Velma Kelly in the 1990s.

“As Hunyak, I was so green I didn’t even realize the reason I was given that role was because no one else wanted to learn Hungarian,” she said. “But learn it I did, and it was such a memorable experience, I decided to audition for ‘Chicago’ yet again for Velma, this time meeting my husband, who played Billy.”

Her daughter Kayla is playing Hunyak in this production, and she is excited to be sharing the stage with her.

“Although a bit younger than I was, she is where I started with the show, and is a big reminder that life is fleeting,” she said. “Time is passing too quickly, but mostly it feels good to look back on what a great run I’ve had and hope to continue to have.”

Leading the cast are Wyandotte residents Spencer Genrich as Velma Kelly, Paige Wisniewski as Roxie Hart and Sam Xavier as Amos Hart.

Leo McMaster of Rockwood plays Billy Flynn, with Matt Mayes of Trenton as Mary Sunshine, David MacDonald of Taylor as Fred Casely, and Jim Steele of Lincoln Park as Sgt. Fogarty, the judge and the jury.

The merry murderesses of Cook County include Kayla Chavez of Allen Park as Hunyak, Ivy Tarnowski of Southgate as Mona, Taylor residents Amanda Aue as Annie and Jessalyn Sturm as Liz, and Sarah Noble of Wyandotte as June.

The ensemble and character roles include Abbey Demorow of Allen Park as a reporter; Kolby Kulka of Southgate as the baliff; Noah Bias of Wyandotte as the doctor; John Criswell of Detroit as Harry; Tommy Koch of Grosse Ile Township as Aaron; and Kayla Aue of Novi as Go-to-Hell Kitty.

Tickets are $16, with a $3 discount for seniors and students. The show is for mature audiences. For more information, or to order, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.