Review: CHICAGO at National Theatre

Do not miss Chicago at the National Theatre!

By: Nov. 17, 2022
Review: CHICAGO at National Theatre
Katie Frieden in the 25th Anniversary Touring production of Chicago.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

It is no secret why the musical Chicago, now playing at The National Theatre, is such a long-running hit lauded by the public and critics alike. It is the ultimate in cynical musicals and will be applauded as long as "the world goes round" with avarice, immorality, and greed.

The two female protagonists portrayed in this darkly satiric musical ---Velma Kelly (Logan Floyd) and Roxie Hart (Kate Frieden) ---are merrily seducing the courtroom, the news media, and the public with their supposed innocence even as they get away with murder. When these merry murderers decide to team up with a musical act in order to drive up their publicity, the show becomes a work of genuine originality as the audience becomes spectators of their "show within a show".

Though this very relevant musical takes place in Chicago in the late 1920's----one could easily see any current news problem or media circus as applicable to the satire in the musical. This musical knows that if anybody can be made into a celebrity by the press and promoted as such- -you can even get away with murder!

Recreation of the original production direction by Tȃnia Nardini has aligned well with the original direction of the New York production by Walter Bobbie. Content becomes style as this tawdry satire billed as a "musical vaudeville" seduces the audience into the world of amoral glee.

The current touring company now appearing at the National are snapping their fingers, splaying their hands, and thrusting their hips in the best Bob Fosse style (choreography of this revival was originally done by Anne Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse ---recreation of the original production choreography by Gary Chryst). Arms extend behind the backs of these lithe-bodied dancers as they sway back and forth with ease in unison and precision---this is the precision and style we have come to expect from Fosse.

The music by John Kander and the lyrics by Fred Ebb show this edgy and accomplished songwriting team at their peak. One great song follows another and many of them are ironic for the brassy and upbeat music is subverted by the caustically observant and sassy lyrics. This vaudeville style lulls one into the enjoyment of these now beloved songs.

The "Cell Block Tango" is performed with verve and snap by the excellent Logan Floyd (Velma) and company, and it is interspersed with revenge-fuel snippets of dark humor.

"All I Care About" is a hymn to love replete with feathered palms and dancing chorines that is a salute to the monumental ego and self-love of lawyer Billy Flynn. The callow and crafty character of Flynn is played to the ironic hilt by the talented Jeff Brooks.

"We Both Reached for the Gun" is another musical standout as the character of Roxie (a superb Katie Frieden) becomes a ventriloquist's dummy in this incisive comic, rhythmic song about the altering of facts.

Ms. Frieden also excels in "Me and My Baby" -which is a master class in comic pacing and comic deception. Ms. Frieden is the epitome of the Bob Fosse essence.

"Nowadays" with both Floyd and Frieden is a knockout of a production number.

As the shy, bewildered, and honest Amos, Brian Kalinowski is touching in the wry and beguiling "Mr. Cellophane."

As the news reporter with rose-tinted glasses, Mary Sunshine ---G.A. James does a superb job singing "A Little Bit of Good."

Set Design by John Lee Beatty is ingeniously done with the orchestra embedded in an elevated and sharply delineated enclosed box-like structure for the musicians and the conductor. The dancers and actors move through the center of this space and move around the other spaces on the stage. There is also a ladder on each side to showcase the leading ladies as they sing specific numbers.

Conductor Cameron Blake Kinnear does a superior job conducting as he conducts ten wonderful musicians.

William Ivey Long has designed sleek and sensuous black outfits for the entire ensemble. Indeed, the costume design adds to the scintillating look of the show.

Lighting design by Ken Billington bathes the stage with evocative shafts of light that showcase the highly theatrical nature of this supercharged musical.

Like A Chorus Line ----this is a musical that will always be popular as it addresses basic emotions of the species called the human being, and it also addresses themes that are more relevant than ever.

Do not miss Chicago at The National Theatre!

Running Time: Two Hours and a half with one fifteen-minute intermission.

Chicago runs through November 27,2022 at The National Theatre located at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004.


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From This Author - David Friscic

David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college.  He is thrilled to be worki... David Friscic">(read more about this author)


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