‘Stars aligned’ for WC Summer Theatre season


The Wilmington College-Community Summer Theatre’s production of “Chicago” this month takes on an even greater significance when considering these factors. It’s the acclaimed troupe’s first post-pandemic musical, it’s the 50th season of the summer theatre tradition and WCCST has been trying to secure the production rights for the popular musical, off and on, for 20 years.

Cole Haugh is directing the show, which runs July 13, 14 and 15, at 7:30 p.m., and July 16, at 2:30 p.m., in WC’s Hugh G. Heiland Theatre. Tickets are available exclusively online via .

“I’ve heard a lot of buzz about summer theatre being back after COVID and, when Chicago was announced, the buzz became even more exciting because we’ve wanted to do this show for a long time,” Haugh said, noting the 1996 revival show is still running on Broadway and professional theatre companies often are awarded the regional production rights over requests from amateur groups.

Bryan Wallingford, a member of the college theatre staff, is one of those veteran summer theatre actors who’s eagerly awaited the opportunity to perform “Chicago” in Wilmington. “As a cast, we’ve wanted to do this show for so long,” he said. “All the stars aligned for this year’s production.”

“Chicago” is a dazzling and satirical look at fame, justice and the media machine. Set in 1920s Chicago, this musical vaudeville follows Roxie Hart, a past-her-prime wannabe celebrity, and her idol, the famed double-murderess and aging nightclub performer Velma Kelly. When both acquire the same lawyer, tensions mount as they vie for the spotlight and the headlines.

“‘Chicago’ is fun, funny, satirical and told through the lens of ridiculousness in this Vaudeville setting,” Haugh noted. “It’s bigger than life!”

Wallingford appreciates the ‘many layers’ inherent in the tapestry of the story, music and dance featuring the jazzy music and timeless lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, and the fun and engaging book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. As an actor, he said the challenge is to present those “moments that need to resonate” for a compelling story.

Haugh added, “We razzle-dazzle a serious point.”

J. Wynn Alexander, professor of theatre at WC and the show’s set designer, called the presentation of “Chicago”, “timely for where we are in the world right now” with its satirical look at celebrity, fame and stealing headlines. He also sees the production as paying a sort of cosmic debt to Steven Haines, summer theatre’s long-time director and one of its founding members in the early 1970s, who died in 2020.

“‘Chicago’ is a property that people know and that our acting and creative community wanted to do for a long time. Steven wanted to do this show,” Alexander said. “We learned so much from him, so this is payback to Steven and an opportunity to give something to our community that is important to us.”

One constant over now 50 seasons of summer theatre has been Becky Heiland Haines, who’s been involved since the beginning and, for “Chicago”: is handling lighting design and much more. She marvels at this milestone season.

“It’s amazing to think this is the 50th season when we started on a shoestring budget and have progressed to where we are today,” she said, noting her late husband directed summer theatre’s first 40 years. “I don’t remember anyone at the time saying, ‘I hope we’re still doing this in 50 years. Even though the management changed over the years, the quality hasn’t suffered and, in many ways largely due to technology, it’s gotten even better.”

Submitted by Randall Sarvis, senior director of public relations, Wilmington College.

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