'Chicago' brings all that jazz to Worcester
May 31, 2009
BY Nancy Sheehan, TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Velma, Velma, Velma. It's always Velma.
But Terra C. MacLeod isn't complaining, even though she has played the role of merry murderess Velma Kelly in the musical "Chicago" with various theater companies since 2003. "It has been an amazing ride," she said in a recent phone interview. "It has been a huge part of my artistic career, and I'm very, very grateful for it."
"Chicago" was in Miami when we caught up with MacLeod, but the city shuffle continues when the tour comes to Worcester to play the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts June 5, 6 and 7. For those who have somehow sidestepped the oft-presented Broadway smash or the Academy Award-winning movie version, "Chicago" is set in the grittier environs of the Windy City during the roaring - and crime-riddled - 1920s. By grittier we mean flop houses and jail cells, and the play's lead female characters, including Velma Kelly, have been known to unceremoniously off a husband or two.
Oh, well. An aspiring Vaudeville actress does what she has to do and if that's hiring a fast-talking lawyer and playing the media like a Stradivarius then ... geez, it was way back in Prohibition, after all. That kind of thing doesn't happen anymore, does it?
This is the point where MacLeod brings up the O.J. Simpson trial.
The play "hits upon topics that people relate to today, like how the media definitely can manipulate and have a huge influence on people," she said, by way of explaining the enduring popularity of "Chicago." "Look at any gossip magazine today. We all pick them up. `Chicago' definitely plays on that and how, with the right lawyer, the right amount of media, the right team, you can get away with a lot. You can get away with murder."
MacLeod, a Montreal native, was living in New York in 2003, working in TV and films when she heard about auditions back in Canada for a French language version of "Chicago." She had studied theater and been cast in a few stage productions, so thought she would give it a shot. "French is my second language, and it was just always a dream of mine to be in something of this caliber," she said. "So I flew to Montreal and attended the audition, and the rest is history." She has been a professional Velma ever since, with one "Chicago" tour or another.
How does she keep landing the role?
"I think a lot of it is personality and character," she said. "You have to have the dance skills and the vocal skills and the acting chops, absolutely, but with `Chicago,' I feel that there is an energy that comes off of people. You have to be willing to be a little daring and risk exposing parts of your energy."
Is it because of all that evocative Bob Fosse choreography?
"Yes, and also because it's the nature of the story in general," she said. "This isn't `Cinderella.' This isn't Rodgers and Hammerstein. This is `Chicago,' and it's got a bit of a dark side to it, an edge."
All of which makes the play a musical maverick, albeit a wildly popular one.
"There's nothing like `Chicago,'" MacLeod said. "I always say even if you don't like musicals, come see `Chicago' anyway, because it's just not your typical song and dance kind of show."