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BWW Reviews: It's All Show Business, CHICAGO Razzle-Dazzles St. Paul


Despite the countless stage renditions and award-winning film adaptations, CHICAGO is still able to jazz up audiences with that old "razzle-dazzle" sass, sharp-witted satire, and boudoir scandal. The musical, starring Tracy Shayne, Terra C. MacLeod, and John O'Hurley, debuted at the Ordway Theatre on August 7.

During the prohibition era in Chicago, Illinois, the musical (by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse) tells the story of two murderous starlets, vaudevillian Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod) and fame-starved hopeful, Roxie Hart (Tracy Shayne) as they maneuver their way out of conviction, under the guide of the 'Silver Tongue Prince of the Courtroom," Billy Flynn. As a persuasively suave and dishonest lawyer, he prides himself on his ability to twist the truth, making cases, "understandable, comprehensible, not a bit reprehensible…so defensible."

When Roxie murders her lover, she is sent to the women's block in Cook County Jail. There, she meets Velma and the other murderesses of the "Cell Block Tango," along with the corrupt Matron "Mama" Morton, who schemes as an agent for Velma's eventual return to Vaudeville. Velma's rage heats up when she discovers that Roxie not requested the aid of her lawyer, Billy Flynn, but is plotting her own entrance into the vaudeville spotlight. Complete with adultery, murder, and a critique of corruption in the criminal justice system, CHICAGO provides the right amount of satirical sensationalism with a dash of relevant humor.

Perhaps most recognizable is John O'Hurley as Billy Flynn. Known for his numerous appearances in popular television shows, including SEINFELD and FAMILY FEUD, and on Broadway in SPAMALOT, his debonair acting style is well suited for the role. Tracy Shayne as Roxie "who said murders' not an art" Hart is equally passionate, providing a believable gusto and infectious spirit, while Terra C. MacLeod gives Velma the right amount of high energy adrenaline, frustration, and sex appeal. But, it was the charmingly soft-spoken and humble Amos (Ron Orbach), Roxie's forlorn husband that had audience members reeling. Orbach's sensitive and self-effacing interpretation of the character is spot on.

While all the singing is spectacular and the visibility of the orchestra musicians on the stage is a special treat, the volume of the music has the tendency to overpower the vocals at times. The conductor's intermittent interaction with the characters is a new and creative touch, but proved to be very difficult to hear above the instrumentals.  However, this did not seem to be a problem for Roz Ryan, who plays the role of Matron "Mama" Morton. She is a vocal powerhouse with an unbelievable range. Likewise, M. Lowe as Mary Sunshine, nearly steals the show with his operatic "A Little Bit of Good."

With the orchestra centerfold, came the inevitable crowding on the stage. Although, the large cast utilizes the space well, maintaining the style of Bob Fosse's choreography with utmost precision and grace.

Despite the productions minor shortcomings, this rendition is a must see. It will not be in St. Paul Long, so theatergoers should head on over to the Ordway before the finale on August 12 and "show some love for the cast of CHICAGO."

Photo Credit: BWW-Staff

Photo Credit: BWW-Staff

Photo Credit: BWW-Staff

Photo Credit: BWW-Staff

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From This Author Kristin Frosch

Kristin Frosch’s writing has appeared in Volume One Magazine (Eau Claire, WI) and Broadway Magazine. While earning her B.A. in English from the University of (read more...)

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