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Mexican Star Featured in Touring Company of 'Chicago' - 2003-08-28

The award-winning musical revival, Chicago, continues to "razzle-dazzle 'em" on Broadway. Since its opening in 1996, Chicago has been the fifth-longest running show in Broadway history. Its enormous success has spawned national and international companies, which have played in 16 countries in five different languages. An equally successful film version was released last year which won Chicago the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2002. This generated enough interest to create a new national company of the show, which is now touring throughout the United States.

Chicago is a musical about murder, greed, corruption, violence, and show business as they say in the show, things we all hold near and dear to our hearts. Well, that may be stretching it a bit, but what Chicago has that keeps audiences coming back is a show-stopping score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, choreography by Bob Fosse and a slinky, sexy chorus of dancers that has earned its reputation as "Broadway's most electrifying show." Bianca Marroquin stars as Roxie Hart, a married woman who has gone to jail for shooting and killing her lover. Extensive press coverage elevates Roxie to celebrity, something she has craved all her life.

"You know what, the amazing thing about Chicago is this story no matter what country you put it in or what period you're in, people identify with it because it's about stories that really happen," says Ms. Marroquin. "And it's happening right now the manipulation of the press and relationships. People who are going through a trial because they committed a murder and then they are converted to celebrities."

Bianca Marroquin, an actress from Monterey in northern Mexico, starred as Roxie Hart in the Mexican company of the show and was recruited by New York producers to reprise the role on Broadway. What Ms. Marroquin didn't realize was that not only was her personal reputation at stake, but, as a Mexican, so was the reputation of her people.

"I got called by my producer and he said, 'In two weeks you're going to Broadway to do the show for a month.' And I was preparing, studying my role in English during the day and doing my role in Spanish at night for those two weeks," she says. "Then I got to Broadway and opened, everything went well and the cast accepted me. Then I'm finding out when I'm reading all the newspapers in Mexico the magnitude of the situation I was in. I was the first Mexican woman to lead a role on Broadway. There have been lots of Latins, Puerto Ricans. . .so it was big pressure, big responsibility. I was not only representing myself and my talent but also sort of being an ambassador for my country."

Ms. Marroquin says this also meant reinterpreting her role of an unrepentant murderer a little differently for an American audience. "For instance, as a woman from Mexico and the way I was brought up, I really took the character to be more apologetic to the audience. All the time whenever I screamed or killed somebody or said something that wasn't really nice, I'd always follow with a little laugh to apologize to people. That's why Roxie could get away with it in Mexico," she says. "When I got here, we had a two-week process of rehearsals and direction. [Director] Walter Bobbie guided us. And he spent a lot of time with me and told me you don't have to worry about that here in the United Sates. Open up! You're not in Mexico, forget about that very apologetic woman. So he gave me a different approach to the character and it's great."

Biannca Marroquin, who continues to play Roxie Hart in the current national touring production of Chicago, is not the first international star to play the role on Broadway. There has been a kind of cross-cultural star exchange with such actresses as Ute Lemper from London; Petra Neilsen from Sweden; and Anna Montanaro from Germany. Mexican actress Bianca Marroquin says she hopes she can be an inspiration to other Latino women who dream of playing mainstream musical theater roles.

"If I could just motivate or inspire or give them initiatives to do what they want, that for me is my mission. When people come up to me and say, 'Oh, my God, I've always had this dream and now that I see you I know it's possible,' I say, 'Yes, use me as an example.' I just love that," she says. "I just want to call everybody to come see the show. But especially a lot of Latinos and 'let's share the moment together!'"

Chicago was recently translated into Italian for its opening in Milan last spring. In October, the tale of murder, greed and corruption will be heard in Russian for the first time when Chicago plays in Moscow evidence that a little "razzle-dazzle" can go a long way, no matter what language it's in.