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Blame it on Barbra

WANT TO GO?

"Chicago," Presented by Charleston Light Opera Guild

WHERE: Civic Center Little Theater

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Aug. 9-10; 3 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 11

TICKETS: $20

INFO: 304-343-2287 or www.charlestonlightoperaguild.org

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Actress Katlin Kouns said the hardest part of preparing for the role of Roxie Hart, one of the two leads in the musical "Chicago," is that she and Hart are nothing alike.

"It's a different role for me to play when you're used to playing more of ingénue," she said.

Kouns, who'll be singing and dancing up a storm as Hart when the Charleston Light Opera Guild opens the show Friday, fumbled a little when she tried to explain what made Hart so different.

"Roxie Hart is typically played by a more...uh...experienced actress...someone who's more advanced in age, more..."

She paused to think, and then added, "I mean a lot of the themes of the show are more mature -- and that's fine with me, but it was a lot of work."

Kouns, 17, is a senior at Nitro High School.

"Chicago" will make the young actress' third production with the guild and her third musical overall. Nitro High School, she said, doesn't have a theater department.

"The only performing arts option we have is the show choir."

Which Kouns had been a member of for three years before deciding to join the guild.

"Musical theater, that's where my passion is," she said.

Kouns has loved musicals almost as long as she can remember. They're her big love -- right after singer/actress/icon Barbra Streisand. Streisand is who inspired Kouns to try musical theater in the first place.

Last October, when the guild opened auditions for its production of "Hello, Dolly," Kouns said she couldn't resist auditioning.

Few Streisand fans could. The "Funny Girl" actress won an Academy Award for that one.

The 17-year-old said the early rehearsals for "Hello, Dolly" were a little awkward.

"I didn't really know what to do," she said. "I didn't really know stage direction, and I didn't know anybody in the guild."

That soon passed. In a short time, she made a lot of new friends.

Kouns said, "A month into it, I'd made some of the best friends I'd had in my entire life."

Among them, she added, was Toni Pilato, who co-stars with Kouns in "Chicago."

"Toni is probably my best friend."

Rehearsals for "Chicago," she said, haven't been as awkward, but Kouns said they've been intense. Over the summer, she's barely seen her parents.

"They both work," Kouns explained. "We've had to meet up at various times to sort of keep each other informed."

But it's been a great experience. Kouns said the ensemble cast has made all the difference.

"It's really nice to be around a base of people who would support me," she said.

Which is good since getting a grasp on Roxie Hart has been tricky. Aside from being a cheating wife and murderer, Hart isn't especially smart.

"She thinks she's more worldly than she is," Kouns said.

The 17-year-old senior, however, is smart -- very smart. She's a member of Rho Kappa, the social studies honor society; Mu Alpha Theta, the math honor society and the National Honor Society. She's also a team captain for Nitro's Quizbowl team.

"It's kind of like 'Jeopardy' but with a team," she said. "I read a lot of non-fiction. I read a lot, which sort of lends itself to Quizbowl."

Kouns said the year ahead looks busy. Aside from finalizing college plans, she wants to audition for the guild's fall production of "Les Miserables," but she's trying not to get too ahead of herself.

"I just want to take it day by day," she said. "I want to appreciate everything that happens along the way."  Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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