Detroit Lakes native takes on role as Roxie in 'Chicago'
As anyone who has seen the musical "Chicago" -- whether it be on stage, screen or DVD -- can tell you, the show's central character, Roxie Hart, is no ingénue.
And that's precisely why the part appealed to actress Kristen Husby. The Detroit Lakes native is relishing the opportunity to sink her teeth into a leading role that has a little bit of an edge.
"She's (Roxie) not young and innocent by any means," Husby says. "Not everybody is going to like her. She's pretty despicable in the first few moments of the show -- she shoots a man in cold murder."
And that's what separates "Chicago" from a lot of other popular musicals out there: its darker tone.
"'Chicago' is rough, and it's a little scandalous," Husby says.
But at the same time, the Paul Bunyan Playhouse production, which opens tonight in Bemidji, is also heavily laced with laughter.
"It's interesting how much humor they were able to put into it -- there are a lot of funny parts," says Husby. "It's a really good show."
"Chicago" is the kiss-and-tell tale of Roxie, a nightclub dancer who kills her lover; Velma Kelly, the glamorous double-murderess vying to keep her press supremacy; and Billy Flynn, the slick lawyer who has the power to keep them from death row and make them into stars.
This production, which runs through Aug. 18, will mark the end of a fairly busy summer for Husby, who has been in five different productions this year, including three at PBP.
"I'm going to take it easy for a little while after this," she admitted.
Her next scheduled show won't be until March 2008, when the production of "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" that was staged at PBP from June 27-July 7 is remounted -- with exactly the same cast -- at Pioneer Place in St. Cloud.
Not that Husby hasn't ruled out the possibility of doing another show toward the end of the year.
"There's always the possibility of some Christmas work," she says.
But when the curtain falls on this production of "Chicago" for the last time, Husby is planning on going back to her other full-time career, with a collection agency in St. Paul -- where she manages a staff of about 50 people.
"They've been letting me do my work remotely," says the Golden Valley resident, who has been living in Bemidji since the beginning of the summer. "They've been very generous, and it's worked out for me."
While acting is her first love, Husby says she doesn't feel it's something she would like to do full-time.
"I need some balance," she says, adding that while she had contemplated being a full-time actress in the years after she graduated from Detroit Lakes High School (in 1998) and went on to earn a masters degree in fine arts from Viterbo University.
"There's just too much of me that's not being utilized in theater," she says, "so I have a day job right now that is pretty intense and takes up a lot of my time --but so far, I have been able to find that balance."
Husby has appeared at Twin Cities venues including the Fifty Foot Penguin Theatre, Theatre in the Round, Mystery Café, Old Creamery Theatre, Thunder Bay Theatre, Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company, Playhouse 412, Theatre Expression, Moundsview Community Theatre, Bloomington Civic Theatre and the Shoestring Players.
But her first claim to fame was on the Detroit Lakes stage, as part of various high school musical productions including "Hello, Dolly!" (as Dolly Levi); "My Fair Lady" (as Eliza Doolittle); "Midsummer Night's Dream" (as Helena); and "The Mousetrap" (as Mollie Ralston).
Husby credits the director and assistant director of those productions, Kathy Larson and Mark Everson, respectively, with giving her the opportunity to explore and expand her talents as an actress.
"Acting was really a way for me to come out of my shell when I was younger," she says, admitting, "I was a pretty shy little girl who read a lot... singing was how it started, and then I went into the theater.
"I love the entertainment factor (of theater) -- the applause, the connection with the audience and the people on stage with me," she says. "It feeds me in a way no corporate gig ever could."
The Paul Bunyan Playhouse is celebrating its 57th season as a non-equity, professional summer stock theater. It employs a wide range of actors from Bemidji, the Twin Cities, and communities all over the country.
"Chicago" will open tonight (Wednesday) at 8 p.m., and that will be the starting time for additional shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as Aug. 15, 16, 17 and 18. There will also be a 2 p.m. matinee performance this Sunday.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $12 for children. For reservations or additional information, please call 218-751-7270, or order online at www.paulbunyanplayhouse.com.
"Chicago" production staff
Director - Zach Curtis
Stage Manager - Rachel Mullins
Choreographer - Joe Chvala
Music Director - Carol Johnson
Band Director - Jake Endres
Scenic - Matt Erkel
Lights - Jennifer DeGolier
Costumes - Emily Heaney
Billy Flynn - Paul Reyburn
Roxie Hart - Kristen Husby
Velma Kelly - Christiana Clark
Amos - Caleb Fricke
Mama Morton - Susie Harris
Fred Casely - Jonathan Mansk
June - Carolyn Pool
Annie - Katherine Tieben
Mona - Sarah Bull
Liz - Elizabeth Downs
Hunyak - Jessie Ladig
Go-to-Hell Kitty - Leslie Rith-Najarian
Master of Ceremonies - Jake Endres
Ensemble: Eric Bergsven, Aric Furfaro, Sherwin Resurreccion, Ryan Parker Knox, Ryan Grimes, Danielle Stadick, Rose Gaston, Joseph Botten, Christopher O. Kidder
Band: Jake Endres, Carol L. Johnson, Andrew Clemenson