REVIEW: Sleek and Sexy CHICAGO Plays at the Fox January 1 -3

A sleek and sexy production of Kander and Ebb's brilliant musical, Chicago, is currently playing the Fox Theatre for a brief run (January 1-3, 2010). If you've only ever seen the film version, then you should do yourself a favor and check out the more minimalistic staging carried over from the 1996 revival by producers Barry and Fran Weissler. While the movie filled in the blanks by offering period sets and locations, this version focuses our attention on the action and the actors (and the music, of course), offering up a view of the lithe bodies of a talented dance troupe in place of scenery (as well as the orchestra, who occupy a multi-tiered bandstand at center stage). The play benefits greatly from this change in perspective.

The story (Kander and Bob Fosse wrote the book) is set in the 1920's in the titular Midwest city, at a time when its institutions have become corrupt, and justice can be finagled through the power of the press, and the greasing of the right palms. When married Roxie Hart shoots her lover for no other reason than the fact that he leaves her, she's quickly escorted to prison to await a speedy trial and a broken neck at her hanging. But, she attains the services of Billy Flynn, a shyster lawyer who makes magic happen in the courtroom through his carefully planned manipulations, even if it involves the exploitation of his client. Roxie quickly follows his advice and watches her star rise above fellow incarcerated murderess, Velma Kelly. However, the media is a fickle mistress, and at the end of act one both appear to have their fame momentarily eclipsed by a prominent socialite's sudden crime of passion.

Bianca Marroquin is a bundle of unbridled energy as Roxie, packing a generous amount of sex appeal into her fishnet stockings. Marroquin does fine work on "Funny Honey", as well as her signature tune, "Roxie". Tom Riis Farrell is equal parts pathetic and sympathetic as her husband Amos, who's given a more apt moniker in his own "signature" song "Mr. Cellophane". Brenda Braxton gives a vibrant, soulful performance as Velma, and when she recognizes her failing popularity she wisely attempts to recruit Roxie; an act conveyed in the song, "I Can't Do It Alone". The pair heat up during "Hot Honey Rag", displaying a feisty camaraderie.

Tom Wopat does a good job as Billy Flynn, imbuing his character with the right mixture of slick insincerity that the role dictates, and he moves smoothly through numbers like "A Little Bit of Good" and "Razzle Dazzle". Carol Woods lets loose as Matron "Mama" Morton, grabbing the audience's attention early with a smoldering take on "When You're Good to Mama". D. Micciche is delightfully over the top as Mary Sunshine, bringing an exaggerated vibrato vocally and physically to "All I Care About".

Ashley Adamek, Shamicka Benn, Cornelius Bethea, Christophe Caballero, Daniel Gutierrez, Brent Heuser, Wilson Mendieta, Pilar Millhollen, Drew Nellessen, Adam Pellegrine, Lindsay Roginski, Steven Sofia, Kevin Steele, Melanie Waldron, Debra Walton and Jesse Wildman add terrific support, whether dancing or providing additional character roles.

Scott Faris and Gary Chryst are charged with recreating the direction and choreography of Walter Bobbie and Ann Reinking from the 90's revival, and both pull off their tasks with considerable aplomb. William Ivey Long's basic black costuming works perfectly with John Lee Beatty's scenic design and Ken Billington's cinematic lighting scheme.

This solid and engaging presentation of Chicago continues through January 3, 2010 at the Fox Theatre.

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From This Author Chris Gibson