Profile on Moonlight’s “Chicago” Choreographer, Corey Wright
by Marcia Manna
Broadway enthusiasts should never miss a chance to see live representation of work by America’s most outstanding contributors to musical theater,and “Chicago,” Moonlight Stage Productions’ last show of the season (Sept. 12-29), has all of that and more.
The musical is based on a satirical play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, a former Chicago Tribune reporter who covered two murder trialsinvolving attractive young women in 1926.
The character Roxie Hart references Beulah Annan, who shot her married lover when he allegedly spurned her affections.
The role of Velma Kelly was inspired by Belva Gaertner, who put a bullet into her boyfriend after a night of excessive gin drinking, then claimed she didn’t remember a thing.
Watkins died a successful playwright in 1969. Her estate then sold the rights to “Chicago” to the talented producer Richard Fryer, actress/dancer Gwen Verdon, and her husband, the infamous director/choreographer Bob Fosse.
Together, the team created a razzle dazzle musical, with a score by Fred Ebb and John Kander and an ensemble of dancers who embraced Fosse’ssignature shimmies, shoulder rolls and jazz hands.
The original Broadway production of “Chicago” opened in 1975 and successfully ran for two years.
But it was the stripped down revival in 1997 that garnered six Tony Awards and won a Grammy Award the following year for the album.
The revival version, which featured Fosse’s choreography and memorable songs such as “All That Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle,” came at a time when sensationalized crime was more common. The show went on to become the longest-running American musical in Broadway history.
Moonlight’s production of “Chicago” features performances by veterans of the national touring show, including Terra C. MacLeod as Roxie Roxane Carrasco as Velma and choreographer/actor Corey Wright, who has played a variety of roles in “Chicago” since 2007.“The interesting thing is, originally I didn’t want to audition for the show,” Wright said.
“I thought, ‘Look at those bodies…and those veterans. I could never do it.’”
A friend decided to audition and asked Wright to go along for moral support.
“He ended up not showing up, he had a night, the night before,” Wright recalled.
“There I was, so I thought, at least I’ll get a Fosse lesson. I was doing “Dream Girls” at the Palace Theater in New Hampshire when I got the call from the casting company saying I was going to get an offer. I screamed and passed out. I didn’t know that it would be the beginning of one of the greatest journeys of my life.”
In 2012, Wright participated in a choreographic reconstruction project through The Verdon Fosse Legacy LLC, a program launched by daughter Nicole Fosse that preserves and teaches her parent’s contribution to musical theater and film.
“The movement felt so good and I was able to expand my knowledge of how the body works in order to be able to teach it,” Wright said.
And I am fortunate to have two lead actors (Terra and Roxane) who understand the Fosse style.”
In “Chicago,” the Fosse style reflects vaudeville and social dances of the Jazz Age, using derbies, canes and a seductive approach to movement that can make a dance ensemble mesmerizing.
“My movement language is quirky and sweeping,” Wright explained.
“I like to find pockets of energy and marry it with a different type of musicality. If you give me a musical accent, I’ll more than likely useit-with an elbow, with a hip, a flip or a head nod. It’s a mix, still in the style of Fosse but also sprinkling in a little bit of Corey.”
Fosse and Verdon continue to influence dance and theater. An eight-episode series about the Broadway power couple is slated to air on FX next year. The project’s producers include Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail of “Hamilton” fame and Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams will star in the lead roles.