Showing posts with label Chicago. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago. Show all posts

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Isn't it grand? Isn't it great? "Chicago" at The Playhouse certainly is!

Full disclosure: This is one of my favorite musicals*, largely for its incredible music and choreography.
*After initially learning about legendary choreographer Bob Fosse via Paula Abdul’s 1989 music video homage, I had to seek out all things Fosse-related. Later, I found Chicago and was completely taken by it. 

The cast of Chicago. Photo by Jeremy Daniel
The longest-running American musical in Broadway history, the production features music and lyrics from iconic partners Kander & Ebb, book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, and a storyline that delivers all the salaciousness we adore (maybe "nowadays" more than ever): scandal, sex, murder, media frenzy, a perverse craving for celebrity.

To me, this show is quintessential Broadway – the way I envision shows might have been during the “old days” – no monstrous sets, flashy light shows or rock star-penned scores, but rather about the raw energy generated from dynamic music and choreography, and compelling characters. It delivers in every aspect.

The production set is stark, the costumes black and scanty yet sleek, the cast steamy and sexy. Hoots and cheers come from the crowd throughout the evening, but especially for the sizzling signature opening, All That Jazz, that sets the tone for the entire show. 

Tonight, the capacity crowd is noticeably heavy with women – I’m imagining groups of GNOs giggling madly at the “justified” murderesses of the Cell Block Tango in a warped female-empowerment moment.

Terra C. MacLeod plays a slick Velma Kelly – the former Vaudeville star serving time for the double-murder of her hubby and sister – with a perfect balance of sass and snark. You can almost feel yourself agreeing with her and Mama as they lament, “Whatever happened to class?”

Dylis Croman as Roxie Hart.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
Dylis Croman expertly plays up the unrefined Roxie's conniving and relentless nature, a woman who’ll not be stopped in her quest for fame – by a jilting lover, dull (if still-loving) husband or jealous inmate. The only thing that could stop her is the worst fate of all – waning public interest.

Jailhouse matron “Mama” Morton, played with command and style by Roz Ryan, lights up the crowd with her rendition of When You’re Good to Mama. (Incidentally, Morton now holds the record for most performances in a musical by a leading actress.) 

Other standout characters, of course, are the orchestra, who kept the audience animated, even dancing out the doors at the end; the compassionate Mary Sunshine (with a hilarious surprise), played by D. Ratell; and Billy Flynn, played by Tom Hewitt, who held an impressively looooooooong note in his number, All I Care About, to renewed cheers and hoots.

From the first notes of All That Jazz to the final sparkly curtain, Velma, Roxie and company kept us revved, rapt and ready to “paint the town” with them in their twisted pursuit of fortune and fame. This beloved musical is a night on the town you simply can't miss. 

Chicago runs at The Playhouse on Rodney Square through February 28.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chicago at the Wilmington Drama League

The orchestra was perched on a rooftop in a brilliant set design by Kurt Kohl which let the audience see them and made them part of the show. As soon as we were seated, Chris Tolomeo and his jazz orchestra started some warm-up numbers from his CD to set the feeling of 1920s speak-easy. Then Kitty (Leeia C. Ferguson) came out in a gangster’s raincoat to do the house announcements in a well-written 1920's patois – letting those dancer legs peak out through the thigh-high slits.

Lights down, then up again showing back of a dancer who starts 'All that jazz' using the brilliant choreography created by Jody Anderson - whose 2007 Candlelight Theatre production of Chicago won the Philadelphia Theatre Alliance Barrymore Award. Not only were all the dancers top quality, but the production on opening night was as tight as anything I have seen in Delaware. Yet it was Barbara Wright's perfect cold stare/warm smile combination as Velda Kelly that made the show for me. I had seen Catherine Zeta-Jones in the film but I was even more captivated by Ms. Wright's dancing and her ability to give that "I'll-smile-when-I-murder-you" look throughout the show.

Watching a few clips of the movie showed me that although the fade-ins and technical gloss give it polish, there is a dimension missing on film that you get with live theatre that I could hardly describe. When Billy Flynn, the shyster lawyer (Jeffrey Santoro) does his shtick with the dancing girls and feathers - your mouth is still hanging open and asking: can this be Delaware? The well-seasoned musical backbone of the Tolomeo orchestra gave a tremendous boost to the smoothness of entrances and dancing.

Music Director Steve Weatherman and Choreographer Jody Anderson deserve much praise for this well-rehearsed show, but credit for coordinating the entire production goes to Director Matt Casarino who said he had never had a show so ready on opening night. The casting, the music and the dancing are so good that I highly recommend you catch a show during the run concluding November 13.