Arts & Culture

Mexican actress Bianca Marroquin owes a lot to 'Chicago'

Bianca Marroquin stars as Roxie Hart in "Chicago," playing Tuesday and Wednesday at the Performing Arts Center.
Bianca Marroquin stars as Roxie Hart in "Chicago," playing Tuesday and Wednesday at the Performing Arts Center.

Bianca Marroquin owes a lot to “Chicago.” 

She made her Broadway debut as merry murderess Roxie Hart in 2002, becoming the first Mexican actress to snag a starring role on the Great White Way. She’s spent the past dozen years appearing in various incarnations of the Tony Award-winning musical. 

“I love the show,” said Marroquin, who is currently starring as Roxie in a touring production of “Chicago,” playing Tuesday and Wednesday in San Luis Obispo. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, the musical about fame, fortune and all that jazz features syncopated dance numbers and a sassy score by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb.

“It (has) the most genius script, the most genius production design in every way of all the shows I’ve been in,” said the performer, who also has high praise for Bob Fosse’s “inspired” choreography. “Really, it is just phenomenal genius.”

Marroquin, 38, grew up on the Mexican-American border — crossing the Rio Grande every morning from her hometown of Matamoros to Brownsville, Texas, to attend school. 

Even then, she loved show business. 

“Ever since I was a little girl, I was clear that this was my dream and my goal and my mission,” said Marroquin, who originally planned to pursue a flamenco career. But her father, a doctor, insisted she attend the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education as her brothers had done. 

“I was really frustrated. For me to function in this world, I needed to have my dancing and my music and my performances on the stage,” recalled the performer, who finally made a deal with her dad. “(He said) ‘As long as you pass your classes, you can do whatever you want.’ ”

Marroquin spent five semesters studying communications. But when she was cast in a Mexican production of “Beauty and the Beast,” she put college on hold.

She moved to Mexico City, where she starred in a Mexican production of “Chicago” before making her Broadway debut at age 25. 

“(My parents) never imagined that my career would take me all the way to New York. Neither did I,” said Marroquin, who has also appeared on Broadway in “The Pajama Game” and “In the Heights.”

In “Chicago,” she plays an ambitious chorus girl who murders her boyfriend, Fred Casely (Bradley Gibson). Roxie’s gullible husband Amos (Jacob Keith Watson) agrees to take the blame at first, but he changes his mind once he realizes the two were lovers.

Roxie winds up in Cook County Jail under the supervision of opportunistic Matron “Mama” Morton (Roz Ryan), along with vaudeville star Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod), on trial for shooting her philandering husband and sister. 

With the help of slick lawyer Billy Flynn (Jason Patrick Sands) and sympathetic columnist Mary Sunshine (C. Newcomer), Roxie becomes the toast of the town as former favorite Velma fades into the background. But will Roxie’s newfound fame help her avoid a murder rap and realize her dreams of stardom? 

“Roxie’s just so delicious for an actress,” Marroquin said. “(The role) goes through all the emotions there are in two hours and 20 minutes.”

Although she’s always related to Roxie, Marroquin said her understanding of the character has evolved. 

“If you look at my performance … I think it makes more sense now. … It’s more honest,” she said. “Now I understand death, now I understand (loss) … now I understand being an independent woman and having to start from scratch. … Those are the things I feed her every night.” 

Marroquin has balanced her stage career with frequent forays into television and music.

Between stints on the Columbian variety/game show “Pequeños Gigantes” and the Mexican telenovela “Esperanza del Corazón,” she spent four seasons as a judge on reality dance competition “Mira Quien Baila (Look Who’s Dancing),” Univision’s Spanish-language answer to “Dancing with the Stars.” 

She’s currently appearing as a judge on Univision’s “Bailando por un Sueño” (“Dancing for a Dream”).

At the same time, Marroquin has been busy launching her solo music career — releasing her first-ever full-length album, “El Mundo Era Mio” (“The World Was Mine”), in May. 

But wherever her career takes her, Marroquin said, “I always come back to Roxie.”

If you go

‘Chicago’

7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday

Cohan Center, Cal Poly

$48 to $90

756-4849 or www.pacslo.org

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