Community theater has an extremely rich and deep presence in the Northwest Ohio area. One of the most prominent community theater groups is 3B Productions, who recently put on a production of “Chicago the Musical.”
3B Productions, founded by Joe Barton, Jesse Bernal and Gary Buerk, puts on shows for audiences and actors of all ages, as well as teen productions in the summer and adults only shows. “Chicago” is the latter, featuring a cast and crew of around 40 people.
Barton, the artistic director for 3B Productions, served as the director for “Chicago.”
“I wanted to direct ‘Chicago’ because it’s one of my favorites,” Barton said. “I love ‘Chicago’ and I know it’s a crowd favorite as well. After 7 years of applying we finally got the rights to do it, so that’s why we did ‘Chicago.’”
Part of what warms Barton’s heart is the volunteer aspect of 3B; these actors and crew members give their time, unpaid, to put on these productions – simply because they love theater.
Rehearsing to perfection
The rehearsal process was shorter than most, though, featuring five weeks of rehearsing and one week of rehearsals with full costumes, tech and orchestra leading up to the show. The cast spent most weeknights and weekends rehearsing “Chicago” to perfection.
Before anything else, the cast had to learn their vocal parts for the show. Janine Baughman, vocal director for “Chicago” and many other shows with 3B Productions, worked hard to teach the cast their vocal parts while preparing to direct the orchestra and play piano for the production.
“It’s been awesome because we’ve had all these people who have been wanting to do Chicago,” Baughman said. “I feel kind of bad that I was actually playing another show so I had to miss a whole week while they were doing choreography. I come back and everybody knew their parts, knew their choreography, knew their lines and it was awesome.”
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After working hard on music and learning vocal parts, the cast went through dance “boot camp” and learned choreography for the whole show.
Bob Marzola, a frequent choreographer and assistant director for 3B Productions, choreographed “Chicago” and lead the dance boot camp.
“‘Chicago’ is definitely one of those bucket list shows for me,” Marzola said. “As a choreographer, to choreograph Fosse, that’s a dream, and it’s one of those shows that’s not done very often. So for me to get my hands on that and do my own spin on that is something I was really looking forward to doing.”
In addition to learning more than 10 dances for the production, the cast also had to practice several lifts to make sure everyone involved was performing them efficiently and, most importantly, safely.
Playing the part
Once all of the moving pieces came together, the cast and crew prepared to run the show every night for a full week, including one tech rehearsal, three full dress rehearsals, and five performances running Thursday through Sunday, with two Saturday shows.
However, this rigorous schedule only excited the company, who were ready to showcase their hard work to the audience.
For Patrick Boyer, the actor who played Billy Flynn, the production started out as a way to perform a dream role or step into the shoes of another person. However, as the production went on, it became a close-knit group of friends and an admission into the “3B Family.”
“I’ve just enjoyed working with 3B because I usually work with Oregon Community Theater, so it’s nice to actually branch out and meet new people and everybody’s really nice,” Boyer said. “Hopefully this won’t be my last 3B show.”
For the show’s two leads, Maria Fallouh in the role of Roxie Hart and Joelle Stiles in the role of Velma Kelly, being in “Chicago” not only meant playing a dream roles, but working together to anchor the show.
“Something I loved about Velma Kelly is that she starts the show by being the head honcho on the block,” Stiles said. “She’s super influential and then she gets crushed. It’s really fun to play her journey of being on top and going down the ladder and having to be like, ‘What do I do now?’”
Fallouh had extra experience with the show, having played Velma Kelly in a production of “Chicago” a year prior.
“Something interesting about playing Roxie that I wasn’t expecting was trying to give humanity to a character that is a murderer,” Fallouh said. “Just showing her moments throughout the show of being a real person and enticing people and using different tactics to reel people in and get them on her side and use everyone to her advantage.”
The 3B family
Every cast and crew member found ways to pour their hearts into the production through each dance, lighting cue, song and costume. After an intense schedule, hard work and a plethora of bonding nights, the company is happy to pronounce the show a success.
“I’ve done 3B since I was 13 years old, and reuniting with a bunch of people that I’ve done shows with in the past and I’ve known for years was really nice,” Stiles said. “3B is just such an open arms type of company. As soon as you do a show it’s like you’re family. It’s such a nice bond.”
“I just love 3B so much,” Fallouh said. “3B is the first place where theater felt like a true family to me. I’m just really excited that I had the opportunity to come back and grow within a new space and make so many new friends.”
After 19 years of hard work building up the company, Barton, Bernal, Marzola, Baughman and everyone else who lends their time and talent to 3B Productions are proud to be a part of this chosen family, and can’t wait to see the future of the company.
“You’ve heard the phrase before, ‘It’s a family,’ but it really is a family,” Marzola said. “I absolutely love working with 3B because it’s a very comfortable place where I get to really be myself and I get to place some great choreography on some great performers.”
3B Productions will perform a cut of “Chicago” for the Ohio Community Theatre Association’s Northwest Regional Conference on June 24. For more information on the conference, visit octa1953.org. To learn more about “Chicago” or 3B Productions, visit 3bproductions.org.