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BWW Reviews: Dance-Terrific CHICAGO Jazzes up the Palace

BWW Reviews: Dance-Terrific CHICAGO Jazzes up the Palace

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

A touring company of the multi-award winning musical 'CHICAGO,' is now appearing at the Palace Theatre in PlayhouseSquare.

'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 fame and turn to Billy Flynn, Chicago's slickest criminal lawyer, to get them out of jail and into show business.

The original 1975 production highlighted the dynamic choreography of Bob Fosse. That production starred Cleveland's Joel Grey as Amos, Roxie's husband. The show, with numerous cast changes, which is still running, is now the longest running on-Broadway American musical and has the third longest run in Big Apple history. (What is number one? It is PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, with THE FANTASTICS as the longest off-Broadway show.)

The wonderful jazz score lends itself to blockbuster production numbers. Outstanding are "All That Jazz," "Roxie" and "Razzle Dazzle."

The touring show is dynamic. The stage explodes with powerful dancing, strong choral singing, a well-tuned orchestra, and strong lead performances.

The buff male dance chorus, who also double as singers and actors, are outstanding. They know Fosse's difficult signature moves, such as dipping shoulders, fey hands, single bent knee, spread fingers, turned ankles and head snaps, and carry them out to perfection.

Having the orchestra on stage adds to the flamboyance of the show as do the sensual costumes, creative lighting and minimal sets.

The freshness and energy of the production is enhanced by the knowledge that many in the cast just arrived on Sunday after a 14-hour flight from doing the show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Bianca Marroquin, a youthful Mary Tyler Moore look-alike, is outstanding as Roxy. She sings, dances and acts with fidelity. Ron Orback wins the audience over as Roxie's nebbish husband, whose rendition of "Mister Cellophane" is tenderly appealing. C. Newcomer, as the reporter, Mary Sunshine, does a fun gender-bender switch at the end of the show, that fooled many members of the audience.

Terra MacLeod, who has a well-trained singing voice and strong dancing abilities, was fine as Velma, but could have been a little more hard-edged. Carol Woods, makes for a first-rate Matron "Mama" Morton. Her "When You're Good to Mama" was delightful. John O'Hurley could have been a little more snarly as Billy Flynn, the slick lawyer, but his singing voice and Silver Fox good looks made him an audience pleaser.

The show's stage manager, Lynda Lavin, is a 1971 Mayfield High School graduate.

My award-winning composing 18 year-old grandson, Alex, formerly known as the "kid reviewer," who had never seen the show before, was blown away by the music, the quality of the orchestra, the singing, the encompassing storyline, but most of all by the dancing. After the show, he, and a group of his theatre-smart friends, were all raving about the experience.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The touring company of 'CHICAGO' presents an audience pleasing production. It will "razzle dazzle you," and give you a feeling that you've seen "all that jazz."

Tickets, for the show that runs through January 12, 2014, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or going to www.playhousesquare.org.


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Roy Berko Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in more than 16 plays, 8 TV commercials, and 3 films. He has directed more than 30 productions. A member of the American Critics Association, the Dance Critics Association and The Cleveland Critics Circle, he has been an entertainment reviewer for more than twenty years.

For many years he was a regular on Channel 5, ABC-Cleveland's "Morning Exchange" and "Live on 5," serving as the stations communication consultant. He has also appeared on "Good Morning America." Roy served as the Director of Public Relations for the Volunteer Office in the White House during the first Clinton Administration.

He is a professor of communication and psychology who taught at George Washington University, University of Maryland, Notre Dame College of Ohio and Towson University. Roy is the author of 31 books. Several years ago, he was selected by Cleveland Magazine as one of the most interesting people in Cleveland.

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