Come Tuesday, the name on everybody's lips is gonna be Roxie as "Chicago" heads to Rabobank Theater. The longest-running American musical hits town as part of Broadway in Bakersfield.
Well, wait a minute. Just like in the musical about women contending for the spotlight cast on them through criminal endeavors, this production has room for more performers, including Jennifer Fouche, who plays the no-nonsense Matron "Mama" Morton and was gracious enough to speak with The Californian during a travel day between shows in Canada.
Fouche has been in a number of New York-based shows, originating the role of Roberta in the off-Broadway "Sistas" and performing in "Babes in Toyland" at Lincoln Center and "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Hairspray."
She has been with the touring production of "Chicago" just over a year.
"This is my second tour with 'Chicago' and so I’m pretty new compared to the other Mamas," she said. "I'm the first new Mama on the Broadway tour in almost a couple of decades."
She was excited to be part of the show directed by Walter Bobbie, who led the original revival in 1996, as well as to take on the role of the larger-than-life woman in power.
"Part of me, who obviously loves music and songs, loves that I get to sing such a wonderfully fabulous song.
"'When You're Good to Mama' is not only one of the funniest and most interesting songs in musical theater. It really is a monologue set to music. She is letting you know immediately who she is before she even says any lines of dialogue.
"The role is incredibly layered. She's not just in charge of women. She's a woman working in the prison system at a time when not a lot of women were working in the prison system."
Beyond the role, Fouche said she knows there's a reason the show has endured so long on Broadway. Along with "the incredible music, wonderfully intelligent lyrics, the choreography of Bob Fosse and the work that the actors are putting in," this musical knows its audience much like the works of Shakespeare, she said.
"It has to be about the human condition. This show is incredibly human. Who wants to be famous and what they’ll do to get fame; the importance that we place on it as spectators. Who wants to feel important, who wants to feel loved in some way?"
It's possible that more people in Bakersfield are familiar with the Oscar-winning 2002 film starring Catherine Zeta Jones, Renee Zellweger and Queen Latifah as Mama. While Fouche said she's a "huge fan of the film," she knows the live production is a superior experience.
"If you really want to see the show as it was intended to be seen, it's classic Fosse like 'Cabaret.' The costume changes, all this black. Wonderful dancers and actors telling this story in a way that is so Broadway, so classic New York, so classic Fosse.
"You really have to experience that. And my cast is wonderful."