Anne Horak talks about preparing to star as a singing, dancing murderess in ‘Chicago’

Eleanor Dearman

A piece of vaudeville is coming to the Bass Concert Hall in the form of “Chicago.” Inspired by real events, the play-turned-motion-picture is centered around the fictional murder trials of the stardom-seeking Roxie Hart and the vaudevillian celebrity Velma Kelly in mid-1920s Chicago. 

After a short time as the Roxie Hart understudy in the Broadway production of “Chicago,” Anne Horak stepped into the leading role for the national tour of the classic production. The Daily Texan interviewed Horak about the show’s national tour and what it was like being thrown into the role of Roxie Hart. 

The Daily Texan: How did you get your start in theatre? 

Anne Horak: I first got into singing and dancing watching all the old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. From a very young age, my dad and I would watch their old black and white movies, and I loved them. I would have friends over when I was in, probably, first grade and I would say, “Hey, want to watch ‘Flying Down to Rio’?”

DT: Why is Roxie Hart one of your dream roles? 

AH: She gets to sing and dance and act. Bob Fosse is such an iconic choreographer in musical theatre history, and “Chicago” is one of those iconic shows. Having that under your belt is kind of a footprint in theatre history. I feel like it’s one of those things where someone can look at your resume and say, “Oh wow, she played Roxie Hart in Chicago.” 

DT: What was it like playing a murderer? How do you get in that mind-set?

AH: Well, yeah, it’s funny because she is such a lovable and fun character. It’s almost hard to remember that she is murderous. You just have to remember what a crazy and traumatic event that it was but also that Roxie has these amazing dreams of being a celebrity, of being a star. In the 1920s in Chicago, all of these terrible acts were put on a pedestal like they were amazing. The people that did them were instant celebrities despite the horror of their actions. Roxie, I think, is one of those people who will sort of do whatever it takes to gain the stardom she desires. 

DT: With such an iconic role that has been played by so many stars, what did you do to try and make it your own? 

AH: I really tried to bring myself to the character. I think kind of the beauty of this show is that a lot of other shows can be kind of a cookie-cutter with your replacement, and “Chicago” really allows the freedom to make the character your own.

DT: What was it like being thrown into the tour?

AH: The show is pretty much an exact replica of the Broadway company. I literally had sound check, and I did my first show. I ran through one or two things, you know certain lifts or certain things fellow actors needed to just flush out before the show, but I hardly had any rehearsal with this cast, but it was fine. Once you get one show under your belt, it’s totally fine. It was surprisingly very, very smooth and seamless. That’s thanks to stage management and this talented cast. 

DT: Do you have a favorite song or scene of the show?

AH: I think, for me, it’s definitely the Roxie monologue going into the song “Roxie.” I think that the monologue is that time where you’re really breaking that fourth wall and getting the chance to interact with the audience. It’s a time where you can kind of play a little and really feel out the audience and their reactions and try different things based on the reactions. That’s always a fun moment because it’s just Roxie on stage.