Thursday, January 14, 2010
‘CHICAGO’ jazzes up the Palace
The multi-award winning musical ‘CHICAGO,’ a touring company presentation of which is now appearing at the Palace Theatre, has been running on Broadway for thirteen years. As of January 12, it is the 6th longest running musical in the history of the Great White Way. The longest running show? ‘THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.’
‘CHICAGO,’ the John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics and book) and Bob Fosse (book) show, is set in the razzle-dazzle decadent era of the 1920s, when “gangstas” and corruption ran wild. It centers on a Windy City story of Roxie Hart, a married free-love housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her lover after he threatens to walk out on her. She, along with fellow inmate Velma Kelly, both long for attention and turn to Billy Flynn, Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer, to get them out of jail and into show business through a series of publicity charades.
The original 1975 staging highlighted the dynamic choreography of Bob Fosse. The dancing in the touring production is staged in the style of Fosse by Ann Reinking, who played Roxie in the show’s 1996 revival. That production also stared Bebe Neuwirth as Velma and Cleveland’s Joel Grey as Amos, Roxie’s husband.
The wonderful jazz score, lends itself to blockbuster production numbers. Outstanding are “All That Jazz,” “Roxie” and “Razzle Dazzle.”
The touring show is audience pleasing, but doesn’t reach the excitement level of some other versions, including the 2002 Academy Award-winning film directed by Rob Marshall, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, and Queen Latifah.
On the plus side are the dance numbers, especially the performances of the male corps. These guys can really dance! Having the orchestra on stage adds to the flamboyance of the show as do the black, sensual costumes and the glitzy set. The mostly local orchestra is excellent, supporting but not drowning out the singing. Tom Riis Farrell wins the audience over as Roxie’s nebbish husband, whose rendition of “Mister Cellophane” is tenderly appealing. D. Micciche, as the reporter, Mary Sunshine, does a fun bait-and-switch, that fooled many members of the audience.
Brenda Braxton (Velma), Bianca Marroquin (Roxie) , Tom Wopat (Billy Flynn) and Carol Woods (Matron “Mama” Morton) are quite acceptable in their performances, but all lack the dynamics needed to make them compelling. Maybe it’s the long run of the touring show which often wears out a cast. They are good, just not great!
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The touring company of ‘CHICAGO’ presents an audience pleasing production. It may not completely “razzle dazzle you,” but it will give you the feeling that you’ve seen “all that jazz.”