"Women of Broadway" analyzes depiction of female characters

Jan. 14—Five of the six women that make up the cast of Cheyenne Little Theatre Players took the stage at the Historic Atlas Theatre on Thursday evening to perform a number from the massively popular musical "Chicago."

With each performer dressed in black and equipped with red fixed fans, they collectively belted out what is probably the most famous number from the production, "He Had it Coming."

"Chicago" premiered in 1975, making it one of the more recent pieces of source material to be featured in CLTP's "The Women of Broadway" on Jan. 27 and 28.

The braggadocios song recounts the stories of six women, all singing about how they ended up behind bars for having (allegedly) killed their husbands that had betrayed them.

But such an effective and dominating portrayal of women won't appear early on in the production. In its entirety, "Women of Broadway" is an examination into the development of female characters throughout generations of Broadway musicals.

"(We wanted to show) how the female characters evolved from the innocent ingenue of 'Oklahoma,'" said Dave Hall, who wrote the script for the production and will serve as MC, "to a more colorful, a more fully developed personality in these more modern musicals that show women in much less stereotypical characterizations."

"Women of Broadway" gives the audience a chance to relive some of the highlights of Broadway history, with 21 different songs being performed throughout the night. Broken up into three acts, auctions will be held in between the performances to raise money for the theater.

The number of cast members in each performance varies—each woman performs 10 numbers, be they solos, trios or duets. There are six full-cast performances in total, which includes "He Had it Coming."

Each song was carefully selected to weave an effective overall storyline of women roles in Broadway performances.

"Once we started talking about the concept, then certain songs immediately rose up to the surface, and then other songs would contrast those songs," Hall said. "And then, as the songs came up and were chosen, it was a question of putting the songs in some kind of an order that created a narrative flow and included a lot of surprises."

While it might have taken Hall and his wife, Mary Hall, who is directing the production, an extensive amount of theater experience to compile all of the different musical numbers, audience members don't have to be experts to enjoy "Women of Broadway."

This production was also specifically structured and chosen to include some of the most popular tunes in Broadway history. At the very least, those entirely unfamiliar with Broadway can still enjoy an entertaining and well-executed musical production.

Mary Hall, former CLTP Board of Directors president, said that this performance will be a return to form for the annual CLTP fundraising event. Last year, the local theater company hosted a jazz night, and in February of 2021, it was a virtual performance of "I Feel Good."

The return comes at a good time, too, as Mary Hall has been particularly impressed by the talent of the cast she obtained. With so many different characters and styles of singing to cover over the night, they've hardly had to coach the performers vocally in any way.

"We have the greatest group of women. Those six women—it's the musical talent," said Mary Hall. "We were sitting there, playing through the songs that first play through, and our musical director, Janet, said, 'We're gonna go into harmony.'

"So, she keeps going, and they just go into harmony (without any further instruction). We were just like, 'Oh my God, at community theater level?' That is huge."

However, honing the choreography has been a little different, said Tenacity Bricher-Wade, choreographer and owner of En Avant Dance Studio.

With years of experience working with dancers at CLTP, this production doesn't present a particular challenge. But while the entire cast has excelled in singing, some are less experienced in dancing and stage movement.

Bricher-Wade corrects this mainly by reeling everyone into the same level—making experienced dancers slow down so that everyone matches the same pace. This isn't a knock on their skill level—learning this many dances in a month's time is a challenge even for her.

"I feel like this show is fast-tracked. We don't have as much rehearsal time as other shows," Bricher Wade said. "So, when I say we have one night to learn this dance, I mean we have one night to learn this dance. That can be kind of intimidating.

"I think they want it to look just as good as I want it to look. And I really do think it's coming together."

Dave Hall emphasized that the majority of performers in "Women of Broadway" are new to CLTP, a good tiding for a company that has recently expressed some concern in regard to attracting younger performers.

They don't exactly have as much stage experience, but they're working closely together and getting a steady introduction into the community of CLTP.

An accessory benefit to gaining new talent is that they can also bring more relatively diverse roles to the stages. This is an important area for a "greatest hits"-style production like "Women of Broadway."

But the cast has excelled, said Mary Hall, and she knew each of them was the perfect fit to take on the challenge as soon as they auditioned.

"It was just who they were on stage. They had that sparkle, they had a voice that was a little different," she said.

Will Carpenter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's Arts and Entertainment/Features Reporter. He can be reached by email at wcarpenter@wyomingnews.com or by phone at 307-633-3135. Follow him on Twitter @will_carp_.