BWW Review: CHICAGO Delivers Killer Performances at The Central New York Playhouse
Central New York (CNY) Playhouse's production of Chicago is a dream come true for Director Dustin M. Czarny, the ambitious Syracuse area community theatre's Artistic Director. The show is one of the hardest productions to receive the rights to perform in North America and the devoted director's request has been rejected eight times. His dedication and determination to acquire the rights to the "dream of a show" has paid off. What we see onstage at the "Theatre in the Mall" is entertaining and memorable to say the least.
Featuring a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse and music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, Chicago is one of the most purely entertaining musicals out there with its jazzy music, story of murder and mayhem, and intricate Fosse choreography. The revival production is now in its 20th year on Broadway and it was the source for an award-winning motion picture. While those are special, so is this one.
Let's start with the design elements. Dustin M. Czarny designed an incredible and memorable set that allows for nearly effortless scene changes. Realized by master carpenter Christopher J. Lupia, the set alone brought much anticipation on the night I attended, even before that cast took the stage. It is one of the largest constructed for CNY Playhouse's stage. The orchestra sits above the stage and above the prison cells Czarny designed. Talented Musical Director Abel Searor plays piano on a slightly lower level where the actors also sometimes perform and interact with him.
Shannon Tompkins' (also cast as Velma Kelly in select performances) choreography, based on Bob Fosse's original choreography, is some of the best that I have seen at this theatre. The Fosse-style dance expertise of ensemble member and Assistant Choreographer Stephfond Brunson also brought a wow factor to the proceedings. His solo dance in "Tap Dance" is a standout moment in the show. The choreography for this number is intricate, seductive, and intense.
Then there are the performances. The production delivers some amazing performances by some very talented local actors and dancers. Director Czarny made a smart choice to double cast many of the principal roles, mainly the female ones. I attended the Saturday, June, 17th evening performance so Erin Sills was on as Velma Kelly and Korrie Taylor was on as Roxie Hart.
Erin Sills delivers a fine performance of Velma Kelly, the Vaudeville star serving time for killing her husband and sister. Sills has played many leading roles in numerous productions at CNY Playhouse and always delivers a rousing and powerhouse performance. Her turn as Velma is no exception. She seduces in "All That Jazz," delivers killer facial expressions in "Cell Block Tango," charms in "I Can't Do It Alone," and shows off in "When Velma Takes the Stand." Sills excels thanks to her powerhouse vocals, confident attitude, and crisp dance moves and all together delivers a highly entertaining performance.
Korrie Taylor, as Roxie Hart, is entertaining in many of the duet numbers including "We Both Reached for the Gun," "My Own Best Friend," and "Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag." However, on the night I attended she was not as memorable in her solo moments. That being said, her "Me and My Baby" number was quite charming, and she also had great line delivery and very entertaining facial expressions.
Ben Sills, as Billy Flynn, delivers a stellar performance. He steals the spotlight with his charm, confidence, and strong and controlled vocals. His comedic charm makes numbers such as "All I Care About" and "Razzle Dazzle" standout moments. He is perfectly believable as the pompous lawyer representing Miss Roxie Hart and Miss Velma Kelly.
Josh Mele, as Amos - Roxie Hart's loyal, caring, and devoted husband- once again delivers a highly memorable performance on the CNY Playhouse stage. He plays the role effortlessly. I was looking forward to the Second Act to hear his rendition of "Mr. Cellophane," and it certainly did not disappoint.
Michaela Oney is comedic and confident as Mama Morton. She plays off of her fellow cast members perfectly. Her rendition of "When You're Good to Mama" is really wonderful and she has perfect chemistry with Erin Sills in "Class."
The ensemble cast also makes an impression, especially in the very popular, and well known musical number "Cell Block Tango." This killer production number exceeded my expectations. It was the perfect complement of wonderful design elements - including dim lighting by Sara Anson, seductive costumes by Alicia Cobb, and the aforementioned set - and performances. The performance I attended featured Lauren Puente as Liz, Hali Greenhouse as Annie, Kristina Marie Clark delivering a powerhouse solo number as June, Mia DeGironimo as Hunyak, and Amy Just as Mona. Their strong vocals, dancing, and piercing glares made this number - and many others - really fun to experience.
Chicago at the Central New York Playhouse definitely delivers some killer performances. The production is sexy, seductive, and wholly entertaining. It turns up the heat even more for summer so don't miss your chance to go and support this very devoted community theatre in the Syracuse area.
Running Time: Approximately two and half hours with one twenty-minute intermission.
Chicago runs through July 1, 2017 at The Central New York Playhouse with alternating performers for select performances. For tickets and information, call 315-885-8960 or click here.