Review: The “Hart” of Theater Beats for Peregrine's CHICAGO

By: Aug. 10, 2017
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When the unconquerable Billy Flynn and the ensemble sing of that "old razzle dazzle," they sing of corruption and deceit - of wicked things turned into truth when presented in just the right light. Under the pretense of being decent in a world of easy exploitation and unremorseful women, Billy's smile is a falsity he doesn't care to hide - his performance as showy as the lights which illuminate the stage. Transforming the lives of the potentially dead murderesses of Chicago into a form of entertainment for the masses is manipulation at its core - it is just one of the reasons Kander and Ebb's Chicago has remained one of our favorite musicals for so long. Now, we can all be grateful for Peregrine Theatre Ensemble's current production of the longest running American musical in Broadway history, happening right in the heart of Provincetown.

Such a fabulous professional theater needs hardly more than the production's inherent, deep rooted trickery to persuade people to see its rendition of Chicago. It does not need to lead people under false pretenses through the doors of Fisherman Hall in Provincetown to see what the hell this is all about. The one truth to be found amidst all the compelling illusions on that stage is that this is one damn good production - one that seduces audiences with scantily-clad dancers, an enticing score and the ability to just about demand us to be seduced by a performance so intense, it's deadly.

Making its Outer Cape premiere, and in celebration of Peregrine Theatre Ensemble's fifth anniversary season, what better way to come in with a bang (...) than with Chicago. With a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, Peregrine presents this show-stopping show under the direction and mercilessly gorgeous choreography of Kyle Pleasant and musical direction of Emily Erickson; Adam Berry also serves as Executive Director. Now, anyone who has ever seen a production of Chicago before knows how demanding a show it is. From the constant momentum required to fuel characters' deceit to the perpetual physical motion of choreography and staging to never let the story lose its wonderful vigor, the show is truly unbelievable in its combination of fascinating characters and visual beauty. It requires a cast that is not only talented but makes you wish you were as talented, with the ability to dance and sing and carry this spectacular musical from start to finish without fault.

So...if you haven't seen the show before, please do yourself a favor and make this your first encounter with it. Please.

With each review I write of shows on Cape Cod, I am ceaselessly impressed with the talent to be found here, many performances being comparable to what one may find in New York. With the clear effort put into this show by cast and crew alike, I don't want to say it is "comparable" to the Broadway production currently on Broadway; although incredibly true, to do so would be to undermine the unique quality of Peregrine's production. There are just so many aspects of this production that not only impress but should make life long fans of both the theater company and the show itself; if this doesn't do something to harbor an appreciation of theater, you aren't paying close enough attention.

Watching everyone from Roxie Hart to Velma Kelly, to Billy Flynn and Matron "Mama" Morton and the Greek Chorus of an ensemble who help tell this rather wicked tale, there is this ever-present intensity in the eyes and movements of all those on stage. Each character, whether we know their names or not, just knows both the role they play and how to command the people around them with that knowledge; it's almost intimidating in how well they wear their intentions on their faces, through their movements and how they don't even seem to try. Their gazes, their intent not just consume them in the story being told, but beckon the audience to follow suit. We are compelled to not only watch the dancers make complete stars of themselves on that stage, or observe how characters like Roxie and Velma struggle with their lives apart from the fact that they're in jail (as a form of perpetual entertainment for us), we look at these people and see how they struggle.

For example, the hatred in Velma's eyes at the unbound success of her new prison foe is palpable with just one look...repeated many times with more scorn than the last. The egotistical Flynn presents himself with such confidence that you just want to slap him (in a commendable way), and Roxie Hart supplies just enough monitored naiveté to save her fame seeking-self from being the now second woman to be hanged in forty-seven years. It is a dazzling performance due to these talented human beings whose characters are as colorful and diverse as how black both their souls and lingerie are. Or, to go in a slightly different direction, how flashy as the fascinating Mary Sunshine...I'll leave it to you to see what I mean!

From the choreography, with enough pizazz and swank to razzle anyone's dazzle, to the set which is reminiscent of Cabaret and also a reminder of how we are almost watching a production within a show, complete with its own mocking commentary and stark yet still flashy exterior, this show is spectacular. The effort to make this the Chicago we all love is given that added boost of that something more which makes this production stand out from others, and that is due in large to the people on that stage. These are actors whose biographies you feel compelled to read with a genuine interest to see how they all got to this point.

Katie O'Rourke as Velma Kelly, Maddie Garbaty as Roxie Hart, Ben Berry as Billy Flynn, Vivienne LaBarbera as Mama Morton, M. Hougland as Mary Sunshine, Michael Burke as Amos Hart, the male ensemble made up of Daniel Estrella, Evan Hussey, Adolfo Ortiz-Feder, Dean Andrew Ford, TJ Newton and Alec Reiss, and the female ensemble with Carly Cherone, Mikayla Elliot, Francesca Endres, Mackenzie Koehne, Melody Morrow and Elizabeth Scamardella are, to quote our favorite line, truly "all that jazz."

Kyle Pleasant as Choreographer, Drew Minard as Assistant Choreographer, Ellen Rousseau as Scenic Designer, Gifford Williams as Lighting Designer, Seth Bodie as Costume Designer, Chad Hayduk on Makeup and Wig Design, Howard Vigorita on Sound Production and Design, Bella Tasha as Stage Manager and Molly Rocca as ASM and all others also deserve praise for all they have done for this production. Kudos to you guys!

So, go and give this production your undivided attention and have a blast. It's as wonderful as I've written, with no added flattery required.

Peregrine Theatre Ensemble's production of Chicago began performances on July 6th and will continue thru September 2nd. The show takes place at Fisherman Hall, located at 12 Winslow Street in Provincetown. Performances are Wednesday thru Saturday @ 7:30 pm, and tickets may be purchased by visiting or by calling (774). 538. 9084. On-site parking is available, as well as a bar within the theater.

Enjoy the show!

Photo Credit: Michael and Suz Karchmer