BWW Review: Fosse Influences Almost Saves Touring 'CHICAGO' at the Connor Palace
As the red-jacket usher guided us to our seats before the opening curtain of "Chicago" at the Connor Palace she said, "I love musical theater, especially if the show has a Fosse influence."
How prophetic she was!
The multi-award winning musical "Chicago," is one of the longest running musicals in the history of the Great White Way. It is blessed with the contributions of John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics and book) and Bob Fosse (book).
The story 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-loving housewife and wanna-be nightclub performer who murders her lover after he threatens to walk out on her. She, along with fellow inmate Velma Kelly, both long for attention and turn to Billy Flynn, Chicago's slickest criminal lawyer, to get them out of jail and into show business through a series of publicity charades.
The original 1975 production and staging highlighted the dynamic choreography of Bob Fosse. The dancing in the touring production is staged in the style of Fosse by Ann Reinking, who played Roxie in the show's 1996 revival. That production also stared Bebe Neuwirth as Velma and Cleveland's Joel Grey as Amos, Roxie's husband.
The wonderful jazz score lends itself to blockbuster production numbers. Outstanding are "All That Jazz," "Roxie" and "Razzle Dazzle."
The touring show is production-adequate, not reaching the excitement level of some other versions, including the 2002 Academy Award-winning film directed by Rob Marshall, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger,Richard Gere, and Queen Latifah.
On the plus side are the dance numbers, especially the performances of the male corps. These guys can really dance! Having the excellent orchestra on stage adds to the flamboyance of the show as do the sensual costumes and the glitzy set.
Rotund Paul Vogt wins the audience over as Roxie's nebbish husband, whose rendition of "Mister Cellophane" is tenderly appealing. D. Ratell, as the reporter, Mary Sunshine, does a fun bait-and-switch, male as female impersonation that fooled many members of the audience, until he whipped off his wig.
Dylis Croman was acceptable as Roxy. Terrra C. MacLeod often appeared to be a wind-up doll as Velma, complete with plastered on smile. Eddie George (the former football player) attempted to act, sing and dance as Billy Flynn. Jennifer Fouché disappointed as Matron "Mama" Morton, using pre-set acting gimmicks to develop her character.
CRITICAL JUDGEMENT: Except for the dancing and the band, the show is tired, lacking the dynamics needed to make it compelling. Touring is exhausting, but the cast has an obligation to give the paying public a fresh, attention holding production. This performance, unfortunately, wasn't compelling!
Tickets, for the show that runs through December 2, 2018 can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or going to www.playhousesquare.org.