Art & Life

Collaboration sets the stage for the musical ‘Chicago’ 

What makes a musical a musical? The singing, the dancing, the acting, all of which are integral fibers of putting on a musical. One fiber that is equally important but is often overlooked is the design of the set. How the set is designed can make or break the show.  

For Kirkwood Community College’s production of “Chicago,” Nov. 2 – 5, this is no different. “It’s a collaboration,” said Marianna Coffey, the set designer for this production. “You sort of see what the script says you need, and then you work with your director and try to decide how fully realistic you need it to be.”  

“Chicago” is set in the Roaring Twenties. The 1920s were a bombastic time period of roaring economic and artistic growth, as well as a rampant crime epidemic brought on by such growth. “Chicago” is a reflection of these times. The main characters, Roxie Hart (played by Bobbi Scott) and Velma Kelly (played by Ella Schmitz), are aspiring to become media sensations, while in the midst of their trials for murder.  

The set must reflect the bombastic nature of the times and the show itself. In the 1920s most singers were accompanied by an orchestra on stage, so the pit orchestra is on stage. 

Chicago is known for its L-train, so there is a tall platform in the middle of the stage. There are many scenes in and out of prison, so there are moving metal bars. 

The set design for this production is intentionally interactive. Everything must work in sync. The performers need a set that is optimized for how they interact within the space. 

“It’s a big dance musical, they needed levels, they needed space. There are 20 people in the cast. So, you have to factor that into your set design,” said Coffey.  

The emphasis is on the performers. This means that the set is more fluid. “It can be all the places,” explained Coffey. “You don’t have to have the walls of the courtroom or anything like that… you don’t need physical jail cells and jail walls.” 

Music major Noah DeVore said he has had the chance to be involved with the set. Ne not only helped with the design but is one of the performers using the set on stage.  

DeVore described how it has all been a gratifying experience, “When I look at this set, I’m actually really proud of it… There’s certain things that I worried about at first, like the stability of each step, like making sure that they’re all going to be good. So, me walking on the stuff that I helped put up is really nice. You know, it just makes me proud,” he said. 

There will be multiple performances of “Chicago” Nov. 2 – 5 in Ballantyne Auditorium. Students, faculty and staff are admitted free. To reserve a ticket, logon to 

Categories: Art & Life