Arts and Culture

Shani Gilchrist



See a real-life crime story set to music at Chicago, playing in Hilton Head

Posted 7/19/2013 5:02:00 PM

One of the country’s best-loved musicals is “Chicago” for so many reasons. The score is catchy and requires both training and talent to present it properly, so audiences can usually expect to hear amazing voices when they see the show. The choreography was conceived of by Bob Fosse, one of the most influential choreographers to have lived in the United States, so there’s little else to say there.

“Chicago,” the musical, is actually based on “Chicago,” the play, which was written by a Chicago Tribune reporter named Maurine Dallas Watkins. In 1924 she covered the murder trials of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. Gaertner, a cabaret singer with a bit of a reputation, had been accused of shooting her lover and then leaving his body in her car with a bottle of gin and a gun. Dubbed “The Most Stylish Woman on Murderess Row” by Watkins, Gaertner claimed that she had no recollection of the murder because she’d had too much to drink.

A few weeks later Beulah Annan was arrested for murdering her lover in her home. Annan was a married laundry worker whom Watkins bestowed with the title “The Prettiest Woman on Murderess Row.” Her original story was that Harry Kelstedt had broken into her home and that she had killed him in self-defense. Later she admitted that she’d been having an affair with Kelstedt and that she shot him when he tried to end their relationship.

The stories of these two women became a play, and later the “Chicago” musical that we all know so well.

The show is on stage through July 28 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina in Hilton Head. Single tickets are $44 at the organization’s box office and can be acquired by calling 843-842-ARTS or 888-860-2787, or by visiting the box office website.