“The White City” was choreographed by Melissa Thodos and Tony Award winner Ann Reinking, and is based on the history of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair including the pageantry as well as the mass murders committed by Dr. H.H. Holmes. It is loosely based on the best-selling book “Devil in the White City” by Eric Larsen (which is in process of being made into a major motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio). The piece has film projection created by Chris Olsen throughout as a background for the dancers. “The White City” comprises the first two-thirds of the program. The final portion of the performance has nothing to do with murder and mayhem, but instead celebrates the work of American choreographer Bob Fosse.
The piece begins with the architects’ vision for the fair, and goes on to the death of visionary architect John Root, and the vision of the fair coming to life on Opening Day. The piece includes H.H. Holmes (America’s first documented serial killer) seducing one of the hundreds of his young female victims, and letting her suffocate in a death box that he himself created. Also in the piece is Patrick Prendergast, a loyal supporter of Mayor Carter Harrison who works tirelessly on his behalf. However Prendergast becomes obsessed with the Mayor, and enters his home to assassinate him just before the last day of the fair. The assassination of the beloved mayor was such a shock to the people of Chicago that the closing ceremonies of the fair were cancelled, ending this triumphant fair on a depressing note. The fairgrounds lay in ruin for months and years thereafter, eventually being destroyed by fire and decay.
Chris Olsen created a documentary of the making of the piece entitled “Beneath the White City Lights,” which was aired first on WTTW Channel 13 in Chicago, and has been shown on other PBS stations in the midwest. The documentary was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2012.
02/01 | 7:30 pm