Painting the Town; Dylis Croman’s Dream Role in “Chicago”

. October 10, 2018.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Growing up in Dallas, Texas, the touring actress spent a lot of her time taking dance classes and the occasional voice lesson as a young girl. When she was 14, she met actress and dancer Ann Reinking at a summer program, who was the artistic director of. There, she was introduced to Fosse style and musical theater, which Croman recalls an eye-opening experience.

Now at age 41, she can confidently say she has dedicated almost half of her life to the theater arts.

Starring in shows including “Sweet Charity,” “Thou Shalt Not,” and “Movin’ Out,” the rising star has worked her way up the ladder to what she describes as her “dream role” in “Chicago.”

She knew when the Broadway hit musical debuted in New York of 1996, she wanted to play Roxie Hart. Reinking, who became her mentor, starred as Roxie in the show and was instantly captivated.

“I was affected immediately by not only her performance but just by the show itself,” Croman explains, “I knew then that that roll fit my personality. I connect with her playfulness and perspective on life as being resilient, picking herself up with positivity when needed.”

The plot

“Chicago” is set in the roaring 20’s, loosely based on the true story of two women who were acquitted for murder. The two meet in prison while fighting to be represented by the same lawyer, causing tension and feud between the two lead roles. In the end, Roxie and vaudeville star Velma Kelly need each other to conquer freedom and fame.

“It takes a real story and shifts it into this dark comedy with the brilliance and wit of the style and music,” says Croman.

As the longest running American musical, the satirical production is relatable, making it a desirable stage play that audiences return to every year.

“It’s a timeless piece,” Croman continues, “(Chicago) is a a bit of a satire on the sensationalism of stardom and people getting sensationalized in the media. I also think it’s a classic, iconic, look.”

The simplicity of the set and outfits are components to its popularity Croman believes, rather having the music, story and dance as the true spotlight.

Practice makes perfect

Croman has worked in “Chicago” for the past ten years– the last five of them portraying Roxie. She began in the ensemble and then as Roxie’s understudy, but her determination is what turned her dreams into a reality.

“The minute I knew I was introduced to musical theater, I immediately went into voice lessons and trained two-three times a week…Expressing myself through my body has always become so natural for me, but when it comes to expressing myself through voice, I had to get comfortable with that.”

Beginning as an understudy pushed her to set her fears aside, gaining the confidence to play such a substantial role. It left a lot of “free” time, with not as much rehearsals required for understudies. That led her to take matters in her own hands and work hard to get what she wanted. Afterall, it is the role she has always dreamed of becoming, and she made it happen.

“Chicago” plays in Toledo 8pm Saturday and Sunday October 13 and 14 at the Valentine Theatre, 410 Adams St. Tickets are $44-$89. Purchase tickets by calling the box office at
419-242-ARTS or by visiting valentinetheatre.com