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WF Summer Arts Intensive to perform 'Chicago'

Sonja Swanson, Ava Hill, Justin Heim and Michaela Pytlik are among a lengthy cast set to star in the West Fargo Summer Arts Intensive's rendition of "Chicago." Submitted photo

The West Fargo Summer Arts Intensive is set to take the stage and perform the Tony and Academy Award-winning musical, "Chicago." The cast and crew are will perform on the West Fargo High School stage in four performances - August 1, 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m. and August 4 at 2:30 p.mSet amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, "Chicago" is the story of jazz-age chorus girl Roxie Hart who murders a faithless companion and convinces her hapless husband Amos to take the rap. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media, and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago's slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which could easily be ripped from today's tabloid headlines.I thinkhis a show that people will really respond to," director Adam Pankow said. "Delving into the themes of it -- the murder, lies and deceit and all that -- it's really a timeless tale, and it has been on my pick list for a while."

With a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse and music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, "Chicago" is the winner of six 1997 Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival, the Grammy Award for Best Musical Cast Album, and the 2003 Academy Award as Best Picture. The original production, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, opened in 1975 and was nominated for eleven Tony awards.

While "Chicago" has been on Broadway for decades and was made into a critically acclaimed movie, Pankow insists the Summer Arts Intensive's rendition will not be identical to what has come before it.

"This will definitely be a different-looking 'Chicago,'" Pankow said. "It will still be the same words and the same sounds, but it will be a more bright and colorful piece. We will lean heavily on the pathos, but bring some comedy into it as well."

Led by local arts educators and professionals committed to quality, individualized training in a positive and supportive educational environment, Summer Arts Intensive is made possible through collaboration with the West Fargo Public Schools. Its mission is to further develop the personal and artistic talents of emerging young artists as they gain a comprehensive understanding of theatre production and performance. "Chicago," which features a cast, crew, and orchestra of more than 50 artists from around the Fargo-Moorhead area, marks the third production for Summer Arts Intensive following previous productions of "Pippin" and "A Chorus Line." The cast and crew features high school students and alumni from West Fargo and the surrounding area.

"What's great about this is that everybody is learning something from everybody else," Pankow said. "The high school kids are definitely learning from the college students who have done some advance training programs, but I think some of the college students are also remembering what it's like to be on the opposite end of things and are seeing themselves in a different capacity."

While the cast will be ready to go on August 1, they have only been rehearsing for just over a week.

"We call it the 'Summer Arts Intensive' because it is a very concentrated experience," Pankow said. "We have a little less than four weeks to rehearse, but we go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. In just this week, I have seen people really concentrating and performing well, and we have cranked out four or five big dance numbers already."

"I can confidently say that this is a great company of artists who are putting this show together, and it is going to be top notch," Pankow said. "I'm really pleased in what we have already. I think this a show the community will enjoy. It's a little edgy, but doesn't cross the line."

Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and $10 for students and can be reserved beginning Monday, July 22, online at or by calling 701.499.1971 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.