The Community Players of Pawtucket's third show of their 87th season is Kander and Ebb's 1975 vaudeville type musical, "Chicago". Based on the 1926 play by Maurine Watkins, the musical version revival in 1997 won six Tony awards and the movie version one for best picture of 2003. In roaring twenties Chicago, married chorine, Roxie Hart murders her faithless lover, Fred Casely. She and fellow merry murderess,Velma Kelly, both on death row, vie for the spotlight and headlines, hoping that the publicity will lead to fame, freedom and successful stage careers. This sharp edged tale of murder, exploitation and treachery work much better now than in 1975 with the way the world has evolved. Director Greg Geer takes his 22 member cast and leads them in a topnotch professional production that rivals the Broadway version, making it a must see show of this season.
Greg is an expert at blocking this show on the two story set designed by Greg and Meg McKenna. He sets up the scenes for creating picture postcard moments constantly rewarding the audience visually and artistically. Greg is a veteran director and this show demonstrates his capabilities at handling a very difficult and technical endeavor with ease. He is assisted by musical director Ron Procopio who not only leads the 8 piece orchestra but plays the lead keyboards but also taught all the musical numbers to this talented cast. They capture the 1920's sound, making the audience appreciate all the songs to the maximum degree. This show is know as a dancing show because the original choreographer was Bob Fosse. This version has its own splendid choreographer, Marjorie Santos. She has the men and woman doing many dances including the Charleston, the shimmie and other physically challenging ones and keeping everyone in unison. The orchestra is onstage above the second tier of the set.
Playing the leading role of Roxie is Jennifer Mischley. She makes this role her own with her dynamite singing voice, her strong acting skills and her accomplished dancing which makes her a triple threat performer. Her first number "Funny Honey" is done center stage and crosses over smacking her husband, calling him her scummy, dummy hubby of mine. Her outstanding numbers include "Roxie Hart" where she sings how famous she will be and dances with her boys, and "Me and My Baby" where she fakes being pregnant so she won't be hung. One of the best Velma's ever is played by Taryn Mallard-Reid. She is dynamic in this role, starting with a stunning "All That Jazz" with the chorus, "Cell Block Tango'' with the other merry murderesses. Her solos include "I Can't Do it Alone" and "When Velma Takes the Stand". (In the former she tries to convince Roxie to join her in a sister act and in the latter she tells Billy Flynn how she will conduct herself at her trial.) The duets with Jen are "My Own Best Friend" and "Nowadays" which closes the show when they finally realize they need to work together to make it in show biz. Her best duet is "Class'' sung with the Matron about people lacking manners and morals. What a hoot! She and Mama are listening to Mary Sunshine on the radio when Velma realizes Roxie stole her dress, shoes and routine in the courtroom. Jennifer and Taryn play off each other beautifully, creating the strong leads needed to pull off this show.
Gregory Bonin plays the money grubbing lawyer, Billy Flynn. He's a tough lawyer who gets his clients acquitted for $5000 but at his first entrance he proclaims "All He Cares About" is love and later on before the trial he says the law system is a circus and all you need to get off is to "Razzle Dazzle'' them. Like numerous current day trials where the press distorts the facts. Greg is a fabulous singer who really gets a chance to show off in the puppet song, "We Both Reached for the Gun". He holds Roxie on his lap and sings her answers to the press as well as his own. Greg handles the back and forth voice changes as well as the tongue tripping lyrics with ease. Dale Magnuson, a beautiful blonde plays the butch matron powerfully. She does a great job in the scenes with the girls especially when she is squeezing money from them. Dale knocks the audiences socks off in "When You're Good to Mama" as she belts the number directly to the crowd while dancing around the stage in an evening gown. What a voice this woman has and she does a great harmony in class with Velma, too. Another endearing performer is Brian Lamothe as Amos Hart. The audience loves him immediately at his crazy antics as he confesses to a crime he didn't commit to the last moment when he doesn't receive any exit music which is par for this schlep. His portrayal of this sad sack guy is fantastic and his solo of "Mr Cellophane" is dynamic, too. The sobsister reporter, Mary Sunshine is played by P. Morin who has a powerful falsetto voice which is shows off in "A Little Bit of Good". In this soprano number, P. sings about how there is a positive side to all people even horrible murderers. P. does a great job in this humorous role and keeps you guessing to what this reporter's true agenda is. Ed Carusi is a hoot as the announcer who keeps the audience in stitches at his introduction of all the different characters. (Also there is a funny newsreel segment about Roxie done by local newsman Mario Hilario.) The other cast members do a sensational job in all their multiple roles, too. So for an impressive and outstanding musical extravaganza, be sure to catch The Community Players' "Chicago". You will leave the theatre humming singing many of the show stopping songs.
She receives a well deserved standing ovation for her hard work as the energetic, multitalented Fanny Brice. Nancy is a triple threat performer, singing, acting and dancing throughout the show. "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" is one of the funniest numbers in the show where she is supposedly pregnant. She handles the comic aspects as well as the dramatic ones in the second act with ease. Her numerous songs include "I'm the Greatest Star", "People", "Don't Rain on My Parade'' (a show stopping number at the end of Act 1) , "Sadie, Sadie Married Lady" and "The Music That Makes Me Dance" (a tear jerking ballad near the end of the show) To quote the show, she is the Greatest Star.
The very handsome dark haired Nick Hebert plays Nick Arstein, the gambling, womanizing man Fanny falls in love with at first sight. He shines in many scenes and especially the argument scene when he loses the money when their casino is knocked down when a hurricane hits Florida. Another fight ensues when Fanny tries to set Nick up as a theatrical agent and the final break up scene will leave you in tears. Nick gets to show off his strong baritone voice in "I Want to Be Seen With You, Tonight'' and "You Are Woman, I Am Man" duets with Nancy and his voice really soars in the reprise of "Don't Rain on My Parade". Some of the comic foils in the show who also get to steal scenes are Samantha Brilhante as Mrs. Brice, Kaitlin Fitzsimons as the busybody, Mrs. Strakosh and especially dynamite is Kevin Black as the singing and dancing, Eddie Ryan who's tenor voice is magnificent. Eddie is a choreographer who is secretly in love with Fanny. Kevin and Samantha do a wonderful soft shoe to "Who Taught Her Everything?" and Kaitlin joins them in a comic song called "Find Yourself a Man". (There are so many talented people in this show it is almost impossible to single them all out.) So for a trip back to the days of the Ziegfeld Follies, be sure to catch "Funny Girl" before time runs out. (A standout tap dancing number is "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat")