Review: CHICAGO is Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary at Theatre Under the Stars with New, Rousing Energy

The show is only in town through Sunday, so be sure to BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW before Roxi, her boys, the murderesses of the Cook County Jail, and the rest of the stunning cast of CHICAGO leave town.

By: Feb. 08, 2023
Review: CHICAGO is Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary at Theatre Under the Stars with New, Rousing Energy
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The room is buzzing with energy. There seems to be no seat open in the entire house. Audience members are dressed to the nines, many in black and sparkly wear. I can feel a strong spark of liveliness as I look onto the stage where there is a large set of black bleachers. Inside, the CHICAGO band is casually warming up in plain sight, and they are the only set piece onstage other than simple, black chairs that are lined up on the sides.

Review: CHICAGO is Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary at Theatre Under the Stars with New, Rousing Energy
Logan Floyd as Velma Kelly And the Company of CHICAGO
Make Quite the Entrance
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

The lights go down, and the audience goes wild. The conductor starts the band, instantly enrapturing us in a fast-paced, high-energy tune. Suddenly, the beat of the song shifts, and Logan Floyd as Velma Kelly is lifted by a platform onto the stage in such a fabulous fashion. Thunderous applause erupts at their entrance alone. Dancers in slick, seductive black outfits then appear behind them in a clump, engaging with Floyd's small, tantalizing movements, sultry stares, and all-knowing smile. The amount of unapologetic presence onstage instantly fills the room, and everyone has fallen under the spell that is CHICAGO.


Review: CHICAGO is Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary at Theatre Under the Stars with New, Rousing Energy
Katie Frieden And the Male Company of CHICAGO
Presenting the "Roxi Hart" Show
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

There is a reason why CHICAGO, after more than 25 years of running, is still a musical that makes the crowd roar and come to their feet: the musical is unlike any other theatrical experience in its storytelling, and it instantly showcases such energy, spectacle, talent, and creative precision number after number. Everyone cannot help but verbally and physically respond to the jazzy tunes, the vigorous dancing, and the strong themes that still ring true today. To me, there is simply no wonder why CHICAGO has been honored with 6 Tony Awards®, 2 Olivier Awards, a Grammy®, and thousands of standing ovations, and even though I have seen the show twice before in other cities, I still found new life and enjoyment in watching this specific touring cast.

CHICAGO is a 1975 American musical with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and a book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. Set in Chicago in the jazz age, the show follows actual criminals in the 1920s that reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins wrote about. Dripping with sex and allure, the story is a satire on corruption within the administration of criminal justice and the concept of a "celebrity criminal".

Review: CHICAGO is Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary at Theatre Under the Stars with New, Rousing Energy
Brian Kalinowski as Amos Hart Showing Off His Moves
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

The show is simply timeless, and with every performer I saw in this production of CHICAGO, I got starstruck by the artistic skill that they had as well as enthralled by the story that they were telling. Every single dancer onstage had moments of solos, including the ensemble members (who were morphing into character after character for the constantly moving scenes and locales), and each performer in this touring production took on their storylines with such ease and bravado. To start, Jess DiForte as June, one of the Cook County Jail's six

Review: CHICAGO is Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary at Theatre Under the Stars with New, Rousing Energy
The Fabulous Christina Wells
Owning the Stage as Matron "Mama" Morton
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

murderesses, caught my eye time and time again with her long dance lines and teasing expressions. Jeff Brooks brought such glamor and sliminess to his character of Billy Flynn, the corrupt murder defense attorney; I really enjoyed his soaring voice and dynamic acting. Brian Kalinowski as Amos Hart, Roxi's loving and doting husband, broke my heart every time he came onstage. I cannot think of a better actor to play this role; he played the mousy yet pure character so well, and I could not help but audibly sigh every time he was manipulated or dismissed. Christina Wells brought to life Matron "Mama" Morton, the matron of the women's ward, and Wells' performance is my favorite rendition of this character. She did not have to do anything fancy when she came up to the front for her solo number. Her vocal power and punching acting stole the show, and I could listen to her rich voice all day long.

Review: CHICAGO is Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary at Theatre Under the Stars with New, Rousing Energy
Logan Floyd as Velma Kelly And Katie Frieden as Roxi Hart
in the Showstopping Finale Number
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

Of course, I cannot go without saying that our two leading roles- Logan Floyd as Velma Kelly and Katie Frieden as Roxie Hart- were as fabulous as they could be. Katie Frieden had such beautiful dance technique and expert comedic timing. I loved her bright, floating voice and her dancing flair, especially for the finale number. Logan Floyd as Velma Kelly was my favorite performer on the stage; they were the star of the production in my book, as could be evidenced by the tour's choice to put them on the front cover of the program. I adored their dark vocal tone, sassy acting, and commanding stage presence. Both Frieden and Floyd's unique styles yet perfect vocal blend with each other was enthralling; the casting was simply right on the money for this production.

Review: CHICAGO is Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary at Theatre Under the Stars with New, Rousing Energy
"The Six Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail
In their Rendition of the Cell Block Tango"
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

Moreover, Cameron Blake Kinnear did such a great job as the conductor. As shared before, the show is unique in its storytelling; instead of being a show that is simply playing through the narrative being told, the storyline is told through song numbers that are announced and led by the conductor, as if the plot development is all just one big vaudeville show. Kinnear led this flow with such care and liveliness, and it was so fun whenever he had moments with the actors onstage.

Review: CHICAGO is Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary at Theatre Under the Stars with New, Rousing Energy
Jeff Brooks as Billy Flynn and the Company of CHICAGO
Bring Such Glamor and Charm to the Show
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

I will never get tired of seeing the original choreography of the show (which was devised by Ann Reinking and recreated by Gary Chryst). The dancing is what sets the stage, builds the set, creates the characters, and energizes every scene, and it is just so unique in its slight movements, technique, clarity, preciseness, and detail. One cannot help but get lost in the glitz and glamor of it all. I also have to tip my hat to the original direction by Walter Bobbie, which was recreated by Tânia Nardini. I cannot imagine how much time and energy it took to get every detail of the storytelling just right, but the team certainly hit the mark.


This show is only in town through Sunday, so be sure to BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW before Roxi, her boys, the murderesses of the Cook County Jail, and the rest of the stunning cast of CHICAGO leave town. There will be a show each night through Saturday with matinee options on Saturday and Sunday. This rousing touring show is happening in partnership with TUTS at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, and you can purchase your tickets on the TUTS website.




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