Mesa Encore Theatre's (MET's) current production of the musical Chicago features actor Chris Fidler as the suave puppet-master and lawyer Billy Flynn. Fidler, in suit and tie form, chatted with PHX Stages at the Mesa Arts Center a few minutes before the show last week.
"The story of Chicago--just like every other experience in Billy's life--is about Billy. Everything is for him... the murderesses, the reporters... only exist to contribute to what's happening in his life," said Fidler about the famous show that celebrates wonton crime with songs like "All That Jazz" and "Cell Block Tango."
Contrary to Billy's warped egocentrism, most would say the plot revolves around Velma and Roxie, two imprisoned murderesses in the 1920s who, true to similar documented cases of the day, were acquitted. If an accused female knew which strings to pull in the system, she won both fame and her freedom. The piece is a satire about sensationalism that existed in journalism at the time.
"It's scary that this story is as relevant as ever," Fidler said. "It's about the unreasonable power that our news sources have, whether or not what they report is actually true."
Discussing how the cast in Mesa sizzles with sultry jazz dance and music, he indicated the kind of flash and twisted fun that results. Fidler further described one of his favorite departures from traditional presentations of Chicago that the MET creative team chose to take.
"We have embraced Bob Fosse's vision at every opportunity, but also added a different element to the number 'We Both Reached for the Gun.' Rather than being a ventriloquist, Billy in our production is a marionette master. I love that angle and it's pageantry. It demonstrates the kind of manipulation Billy is best at."
Those velvety red strings also allow actress Kara Marzulo, an accomplished dancer, the liberty of some great puppet choreography as Roxie, rather than confining her to a seated position. There's so much more fluff and swagger that Billy promotes, too. Fidler concludes on a humble note, saying he's excited for the nightly audience reaction to a character that was a stretch for him to play.
"Just this week I finally locked in on who my personal Billy is. I actually heard his voice in my head--the tone and inflections--and suddenly knew exactly who he is. He's not like any character I've ever played."
Locked and loaded, Fidler aims to string the audience along on a wild, depraved ride through Mesa Encore Theatre's Chicago.
CLICK HERE for more information on CHICAGO at Mesa Encore Theatre, which runs through September 24th