Bigger and bolder

By Colin Foster

March 18, 2014

By Colin Foster

TROY — Last year’s production of “Grease” was one of the most successful musical’s in Troy High School history.

This year they will be doing something perhaps even bigger and bolder — the Broadway hit “Chicago.”

“I hope people will be thoroughly entertained,” said director Erik Strope, a Cookson elementary music teacher who is directing his fifth play at THS. “We’ve got a lot of different styles of music — the songs are just infectious.

“The whole story is about Roxie Hart (played by Kearsten Small) and Billy Flynn (played by Joe Henson) and how they kind of manipulate the underbelly of Chicago, and you still find yourself rooting for the women who just killed a man … it’s entrancing almost. It’s one of my favorites.”

“Chicago” opens Friday at 7 p.m. in the Troy High School auditorium, and will follow up with showings on Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.). Reserved seating ticket prices are $10, general admission is $8 and the price for students is $5.

Both director Erik Strope and his wife/assistant director/producer Stephanie Strope are huge fans of “Chicago,” and the idea to bring the musical to Troy High School was planted two years ago. After the first read of the script, though, Erik decided to table the idea to bring the musical to THS. But after talking about it over the summer, the Strope’s decided they could do it, with a little tinkering of the script to make it “more high school,” as Stephanie explained.

Changing things around in the script, however, hasn’t been the only challenge involved in the production. Perhaps even more of a challenge have been the precise movements and dance numbers that the cast has had to pick up on. Henson, who plays Billy Flynn, said the cast has spent long hours working to perfect the moves.

“We get text messages when we have snow days, and we’d get messages saying make sure you guys are practicing for the play,” Henson said. “I think most of the time when that happens, people would just blow it off and play video games — but I really think everybody was really spending time working on the steps and getting everything right.”

Erik Strope said that the “Fosse” dancing style — named after choreographer Bob Fosse — is something the cast has never done before, as it focuses on in-sync and precise movements.

“Our choreographer, Irene Imboden, has worked very hard with the kids,” Erik Strope said. “From Day 1, she’s been talking with them on how we move in Fosse style, what kind of poses do we do, what kind of attitude do we have, what kind of characters we have.”

“These are very, very precise movements, small movements and very angular,” Stephanie Strope said. “They have to focus on not only what their bodies are doing, but they also have to portray the attitude, so that’s what we’ve been spending most of our time on, to get that Chicago, 1920s attitude out, so you can see it throughout any seat in the audience.

“There are a lot of happy kids in here, so they have to get in that place.”

THS has performed “Beauty and the Beast,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and “Grease” during the Strope’s tenure. But this is something totally different than in years past — and audience members can expect to see something with a little more edge to it.

“This is a side of the high school students that we’ve never pushed before,” Stephanie Strope said.

“It’s a great show. The songs are fantastic, some of my favorite Broadway songs of all time, and then of course there’s the Fosse dancing, which is nothing like they’ve ever done before,” Erik Strope said. “It’s been a bit of a challenge, but they’re having fun with it.”

Colin Foster may be reached at 937-440-5208 or followed on Twitter @colinfosterbg or @Troydailynews