Review: CHICAGO at Loveland's Center Performing Arts Theatre

Razzle Dazzle on the Dingbat Stage

By: Jul. 28, 2023
Review: CHICAGO at Loveland's Center Performing Arts Theatre
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Dingbat Theatre Project Brings Some Razzle Dazzle to the Stage

Suncoast’s quirky theatre company, Dingbat Theatre Project, founded in 2020, is a collective of theatre artists dedicated to the creation and development of dynamic and boldly imaginative theatrical productions. Dingbat’s belief is that great storytelling and, by extension, theatre, comes from imagination and a desire to play. Each production Dingbat Theatre Project brings to the stage, from newly imagined classics to original pieces, will reflect this urge to engage in theatre in a creative and surprising way. They state, “The title Dingbat Theatre Project highlights our eccentricity as a theatre company. We strive to be Sarasota's quirky arts organization looking for new stories to tell, new ways to present classic and contemporary works of theatre, and new ways to engage audiences in the arts.” And they do!

In this production Dingbat Theatre Project takes audiences back to Chicago in the raucous roaring twenties where vixen Roxie Hart murders her unfaithful lover and convinces her forlorn husband, Amos, to take the rap. When Amos finds out he's been duped he turns on Roxie. Convicted and sent to death row, Roxie and another "Merry Murderess," Velma Kelly, vie for the spotlight and the headlines, ultimately joining forces in search of the "American Dream" of fame, fortune, and of course acquittal.

Fans will remember the production originally premiered on Broadway in 1975 directed by Bob Fosse and featuring diva greats Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera. The musical was adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 2002 directed by Rob Marshall and starred Catherine Zeta-JonesRenee ZellwegerRichard Gere, and Queen Latifah. It features a score by legendary John Kander and Fred Ebb and a book by Ebb and Fosse. Chicago is adapted from the play by Maurice Dallas Watkins, who was inspired by real-life "jazz killers" Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner.

Dingbat's production features fourteen multi-talented cast members assuming multiple roles. Theatergoers will be transported into an immersive performance space reminiscent of jazz and cabaret clubs. The themes of fleeting fame, manipulation of media, and corruption are highlighted in this staging by directors, Brian F. Finnerty, who also choreographs and costume designs, and Luke Manual McFatrich in the role of Matron “Mama” Morton. Michelle Kasanofsky beautifully takes on the role of music director with scenic design by talented Gretchen Beaumier, ambient lighting design by Ethan Vail, and dramaturgy by Darah Woomert. They are supported by Lexi Lowther, who serves as Assistant Director, and Alisha Tyler-Lohr who serves as Assistant Choreographer.  

The production is led by Tahlia Chinault in the role of Roxie Hart and Amanda Heisey in the role of Velma Kelly. Tahlia brings Roxie to life with a sexy charm and the pipes to deliver the vocals needed to ignite the theatre. Amanda exuded great finesse as Velma in acting and vocal abilities. The interaction between Roxy and Velma that Tahlia and Amanda brought to the stage was fun and entertaining to watch. Brian F. Finnerty plays lawyer Billy Flynn with an arrogant charm reminiscent of Adam Lambert. Luke Manual McFatrich plays Matron "Mama" Morton with sly, polished wit. Other Dingbat troupe members include Hunter Day in the ensemble and a not to be missed Cory Woomert as flirtatious reporter Mary Sunshine. The rest of the cast is made up of local favorites who are new to the company and include Kelly Leissler appearing as Amos Hart, the "Merry Murderesses" are Colleen Buchmeier, Keely Karalis, Amanda LadeSarah Johnson, and Andrea Keddell. The cast is rounded out with performances from Casey Kelley, Debbi White, and Laura Grieme.

This fast-paced, quirky presentation stayed true to Fosse’s stylish choreography and the edgy, erotic, and cynical dynamics of the original theme. The theatre is intimate and has a charming and comfortable atmosphere as the cast often joins you at your seat or table.

Chicago stages at The Loveland Center's Performing Arts Theatre (157 S Havana Rd, Venice, FL 34292) July 19-August 6.


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