Murderess role `empowering, not terrifying' for local star

Hannah Jarvis Lingard stars as Roxie Hart, the lead in the upcoming local production of Chicago. - Will Johnson photo
Hannah Jarvis Lingard stars as Roxie Hart, the lead in the upcoming local production of Chicago.
— image credit: Will Johnson photo

Hannah Jarvis Lingard has been performing in local theatre productions since she was five years old. But she’s never been given the chance to tackle a role like Roxie Hart, the lead character in the upcoming production of Chicago at the Capitol.

“This is a lot more adult than anything I’ve done before,” said Lingard. “I’m really putting myself out there.”

Lingard said many of her costumes are “basically undergarments,” and fans of her earlier work may be surprised to see her transformation from a cute mouse in a pantomime Christmas production of “Puss in Boots” 15 years ago to the sultry vaudevillian criminal she will be playing from June 12 to 15.

“Roxie’s a little more sassy than Hannah in real life. Hannah’s lovely and has a sort of humble confidence, so this is a whole new side of her we’re seeing,” said Desiree Hall, the assistant musical director.

“People in this community know her, and they know she can do it. They’ve never seen her do so much though,” said Hall. “People who know her will be like `Oh! This is a totally different side of her.’”

Lindgard, who considers herself a singer first, dancer second and actor third, said this is easily the most demanding role she’s ever played, partly because it involves a variety of all those different skill sets. She estimates she’s on stage for three quarters of the production.

“It’s a little bit scary but it’s a great role physically and vocally,” she said. When asked if she’s nervous to expose this new side of herself to the theatre community, she laughed. “I’ve decided to consider it empowering, not terrifying.”

Lingard saw the Academy Award-winning movie adaptation of Chicago back when it was released in 2002, and said she never would’ve imagined she would get the chance to fill Renee Zellweger’s stilettos. She said if she were to make a list of the top roles she hoped to play, this one would be at the very top.

Chicago tells the story of two women who find themselves facing trial in 1920s Chicago. They attempt to achieve fame in order to avoid punishment for their crime, with the help of fast-talking lawyer Billy Flynn.

Lingard’s favourite number is “Me and My Baby,” a song that was cut from the movie version.

In the song, Roxie sings “Look at my baby, my baby and me, a dream of a duo, no don’t you agree? Why keep it mum when there’s nothing to hide? And what I feel I must reveal. It’s more than I can keep inside.”

“It’s so fun, I guess it doesn’t fit the genre as much. It takes itself less seriously,” Lingard said. “It’s just a goofy little vaudeville number.”

For her audition, Lingard prepared “Nowadays” from the show and “Poor Johnny One Note” from the musical  Babes in Arms. She said she wasn’t sure, walking out, whether she had nailed it or not. But Sydney Black, who will be playing opposite Lingard as co-conspirator Velma Kelly, called her a few days after the audition.

“Sydney left a mysterious message on my phone like `We have a very important matter to discuss’ and so I called and they told me I had the part. It took a while for it to sink in, I think.”

Though Roxie is a blond, Lingard is a natural brunette. She told the Nelson Star she hasn’t yet decided if she’ll dye her signature locks, so audiences will have to attend the show to see for themselves.

Rehearsals are now in full swing, and Lingard said she’s been loving the process.

“It’s different because I get to step outside and see the big picture,” she said. “There are numbers where I’m basically a prop and everyone’s dancing around me. It’s amazing.”

Lingard praised the work of choreographer Mackenzie Hope, who Black called “a driving force” behind the scenes.

“The original choreographer, Bob Fosse, he’s huge in the musical theatre world,” said Lingard. “So those are pretty big shoes to fill. But he’s been integral. He’s making everything look so slick. I love him.”

When asked what aspirations she has for her various creative pursuits, Lingard said she never wants to lose her passion for singing, dancing and acting.

“I never want to stop doing any of those things. It’s kind of like an addiction,” she said.

Shows will be running June 12 through 15 at 8 p.m., with two matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students and are available at capitoltheatre.bc.ca

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