Vail Valley Theatre Company’s production of ‘Chicago: The Musical’ opens Friday |

Vail Valley Theatre Company’s production of ‘Chicago: The Musical’ opens Friday

Caramie Schnell
Roxie rocks Chicago
Justin McCarty | Special to the Weekly |

If you go ...

What: Vail Valley Theatre Company’s production of “Chicago: The Musical.”

Show Dates: Friday and Saturday and Oct. 24, 25. After party at Main St. Grill Saturday night. Doors open at 7 p.m. Curtain at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Battle Mountain High School in Edwards.

Cost: Buy Tickets in advance $20 for adults and $15 for students at Tickets will increase to $25 day of show.

More information:, 970-306-1086 or email

EDWARDS — “Chicago,” the latest Vail Valley Theatre Company production, doesn’t show quite as much skin as last year’s “Rocky Horror,” but it’s still plenty sexy. And it has all of the essential elements of a good show, says the musical’s director, Beth Swearingen.

“It has lots of interesting characters; it has a fun plot; it has fantastic music; and a lot of dancing,” she said. “We really get a chance to showcase some excellent local dancers.”

In short, “It’s fun; it’s upbeat; it’s campy; it’s sexy,” she said.

The production opens tonight at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards,

The musical is based on a play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, a journalist who covered the 1924 trials of two accused murderers for the Chicago Tribune. As the longest-running American musical in Broadway history (more than 7,300 performances), and considering three hotties — Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere — starred in the 2002 film production, there’s a good chance you know the plot. But in case you don’t, here we go.

Set in Chicago during the Roaring ’20s, Roxie Hart, an ambitious girl who craves the limelight, murders her lover and promptly convinces her husband, Amos, of two things: First, the man was a burglar, and second, he should take the rap. He agrees to it, but eventually the truth comes out and Roxie goes to jail, where she meets Velma, another famous murderess and stage performer. The women share a lawyer — Billy Flynn — who opts for an all-female clientele.

For Swearingen, who is also the choreographer, the musical is one of her all-time favorite shows.

“I’m really, really excited to be able to direct it,” she said, admitting she’s even “a little envious of the people getting to perform in it.”

“It’s a great show, a classic, with one great musical number after the next,’ she said.


More than 50 people auditioned for around 25 roles, Swearingen said, likely “because it’s a favorite show” for many people.

Rehearsals started around six weeks ago, at the beginning of September.

“This is a very strong cast, one of the strongest casts I’ve ever assembled, and I’ve directed a few shows for the theater company,” said Swearingen, whose directing credits include “Company,” “Side by Side by Sondheim,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Man of La Mancha” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum.”

The past two years, the theater company has put on “Rocky Horror Picture Show” in the fall, a very fun, very risque show.

“Fans of ‘Rocky’ will be glad to know we still like to strut our stuff in as few threads as possible,” wrote longtime resident and actor Bart Garton in a recent column about the production for the Vail Daily. Garton plays Roxie’s deceitful lover and murder victim, Fred Casely, in the show. “But this production will be reviewed as a bit classier, which is an odd statement considering the subject matter.”

Audiences are in for a good time, Swearingen agreed.

“This show has every bit as much fun and the energy of ‘Rocky Horror.’ Although this show has some adult themes, it’s PG instead of R,” Swearingen said. “(There are) some adult references and a little bit of colorful language but otherwise it’s (a) pretty all ages (show), in my opinion.”

“Chicago” cast members include longtime local favorites Charis Patterson (Velma Kelly), John Tedstrom (Billy Flynn), Bart Garton (Fred Casely) and a few newcomers, too: Jessica Long (Roxie Hart), Jet Quealy (Amos) and Gretchen Swanson (Matron Mama).


New cast members have infused the production with fresh energy, Swearingen said, especially Long, a 17-year-old senior at Eagle Valley High School who is the youngest face.

“She’s an extremely talented young lady,” Swearingen said. “She came in and blew us away with her audition.”

Not surprising since entertainer blood runs thick through Long’s veins. Her dad, Phil, has performed apres in Vail for decades now, most recently at Shakedown Bar in Vail Village, and Long has plenty of experience singing with dad, doing private shows and performing on stage in Vail Village as well.

“I’ve been singing before I could even talk almost,” she said.

Though she’s been doing theater her “whole life” and plans to study musical theater in college, this is Long’s first performance with the Vail Valley Theatre Company, she said.

“It’s been cool finding my way and my voice with such a mature role,” she said. “It’s been great working with a different caliber of talent. They’ve become awesome friends and mentors.”

She was looking for something to do this fall instead of softball, she said. Her dad saw on Facebook that auditions were coming up and encouraged her to try out. Having seen the 2002 movie “Chicago” and also a production at her theater camp, Long said she loves the musical and Roxie was the role she wanted. Her favorite song in the show is “We Both Reached for the Gun.”

“It’s one of the big dance numbers with the reporters,” she said. “I get to act like a rag doll, a puppet, which is fun.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 and

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