A murder. A highly publicized case. A money-inspired defense lawyer looking to spin his way to an exoneration. A defendant looking to win public favor through fake news.
Sounds like any number of today’s headlines, but it’s actually the plot of the Tony Award winning hit, CHICAGO, running through December 2, 2018 at the Playhouse Square Connor Palace. The production has music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. This touring production features NFL legend and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George as the lawyer Billy Flynn.
CHICAGO is set in the 1920s Jazz Age of Chicago, and unhappy housewife Roxie Hart (Dylis Croman) kills off her lover because he’s leaving her. This leaves Roxie holding the gun, and she suckers her husband Amos (Paul Vogt) into taking the blame (which doesn’t work). Roxie ends up in jail, and she’s looking to scheme her way out. Luckily she’s able to connive her way on to Billy Flynn’s roster.
Also incarcerated, murderess and “celebrity criminal” Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod) loses her number one spot on lawyer Billy Flynn’s priority list, and is then forgotten in the tabloids thanks to Roxie and her tall tales. This creates some jealousy on the cell block – let the singing and dancing commence.
In a time of glitz, glamour, and gangsters, this #1 Longest Running American Musical and winner of six 1997 Tony Awards is a show that shines because of its Bob Fosse-structured choreography, and a company of dancers that executes it with finesse and flash.
MacLeod is a surprise as Velma, as the actress is made up slightly older than the rest of the younger cast, yet she kills with her vocals and leggy moves. Her opening of “All That Jazz” is an automatic attention grabber, and she sails through the song with poise.
George does his best to keep up with the energy around him as Billy Flynn. Although his performance is passable, he’s still easily out-flashed by everyone dancing and singing around him. But for a football player (whose training is on the field), the general ability to get through an entire musical performance and hold his own is admirable.
Croman is a lukewarm Roxie – her singing is adequate and her moves are in rhythm, but her overall performance lacks that needed extra spark. Her performance of “Roxie” is solid, but she never reaches a level of “dazzling.”
Vogt is a lovable and endearing Amos. His performance of “Mr. Cellophane” is heartbreaking and dead-on doltish, which is perfect. Give this guy a hug!
Jennifer Fouché is a wonderfully wailing “Mama,” running the cell block with strength, panache, and a great belt voice. Her rendition of “When You’re Good to Mama” is slick and savvy.
The standout was amazingly D. Ratell as Mary Sunshine, the cross-dressing soprano surprise, with a vocal range that slays, and a pizzazz that steals the show. “A Little Bit of Good” is fabulous!
Overall, the 2-hour and 35-minute production moves well, and has many showstopping numbers that feature hip-circling dance moves and vaudeville comic moments. With a story that’s fake-news-familiar, and lots of fun moments, CHICAGO is an enjoyable enough time-passer.
CHICAGO runs through December 2, 2018 at the Connor Palace. Tickets are $10-$80 and can be purchased at www.playhousesquare.org. Note: there are two performances on Sunday, December 2.