Theatre Mirror Reviews "Chicago"


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

URI's closing show of their season is Kander and Ebb's 1975 vaudeville type of musical "Chicago". Based on the 1926 play by Maurine Watkins, the musical revival in 1997 won six Tony Awards and the movie version won the Academy Award in 2003. In the roaring twenties Chicago, married chorine, Roxie Hart murders her faithless lover, Fred Casely. She and fellow murderess, Velma Kelly, both on death row, vie for the spotlight and headlines, hoping the publicity will launch them to fame, fortune, freedom and successful stage careers. This sharp edged tale of murder, exploitation and treachery was well ahead of its time in 1975 and worked much better in the 1990's after the OJ Simpson trial to display the circus-like atmosphere of the judicial system in 1920's Chicago. Director Paula McGlasson takes her 22 member cast and leads them in a topnotch production with excellent vocalizations and brilliant dancing with phenomenal choreography, creating a must see show of this spring season.

Paula blocks the show, utilizing every inch of the two story set. Lila not only conducts a ten piece orchestra but plays lead keyboards. She also taught the hard working cast the Kander and Ebb melodies, recreating the 1920's sound with them. Choreographer Dante Sciarra does a magnificent job with this dancing Bob Fosse musical. His many dances include the Charleston, the shimmie and many other physical types of dances which these performers pull off in perfect unison, creating a spectacle to be savored and enjoyed at their expertise. David Howard's colorful costumes are splendid and the two story set by Cheryl de Wardener is marvelous, too. The lighting and sound are splendid by Jen Rock and Michael Hyde. Playing the lead role of Roxie Hart is Anya Fox. She makes this role her own with her lovely singing voice, her dancing abilities and her acting talents. Her interactions with her fellow cast members is topnotch. Anya's first solo as Roxie, is where she sings of her love and devotion of her sad sack husband, Amos, called "Funny Honey" where he is taking the rap for Fred's murder. However when he spills the beans to the cop, she turns on a dime, calling him, her scummy, crummy, dummy hubby of mine. Her outstanding numbers include "Roxie Hart" where she sings about how famous she'll be while dancing with her boys (these guys are fabulous in this outstanding number) and "Me and My Baby" where she fakes a pregnancy to prevent being hung. The Roxie number is reminiscent of "Whatever Lola Wants'' from "Damn Yankees". Her counterpart in this show, Velma is played marvelously by Julia Bartoletti. As Velma, she opens the show with the dynamite song and dance number "All That Jazz" and that high energy never wavers during the rest of the show. Julia is mesmerizing as Velma and also leads the Merry Murderesses in "Cell Block Tango" which stops the show with high intensity as they sing how they killed their husbands and lovers. Dante outdoes himself choreographing them with chairs in this Fossesque type dance. Julia's other solos include "I Can't Do It Alone" where she tries to convince Roxie into joining her sister act and in "When Velma Takes the Stand" where she explains to Billy how she will convince the jury of her innocence. Her duets with Anya are "My Own Best Friend" and "Nowadays" which closes the show as they realize they must finally work together to make it in show biz. One of the funniest numbers is Julia's duet with the matron called "Class" about people lacking morals and manners as she and Mama listen to Mary Sunshine's description of the trial on the radio. Velma finally realizes that Roxie stole her dress, shoes and routine in the courtroom. Dynamic job by Anya and Julia as these two strong women of yesteryear.

David Sackal is fantastic as he plays the money grubbing lawyer, Billy Flynn. He's a tough lawyer who gets his clients acquitted for $5000 and at his first entrance he proclaims "All I Care About is Love". Billy means the love of money as he croons this Bing Crosby type tune. Later on before the trial, he explains the justice system is just a circus and all you need to get off is to "Razzle Dazzle" them by keeping them off balance by having the press distort the facts of the case. David shows off his acting chops and strong voice as Billy. His most demanding number is "We Both Reached for the Gun" while holding Anya on his lap as a puppet and sings out of both sides of his mouth answering their questions as both of them. David handles the back and forth voice changes excellently as well as the tongue twisting lyrics with ease. He is hilarious in this role. Danielle Dube plays the butch Matron Mama Morton beautifully. She does topnotch work with the female prisoners squeezing money from them. Danielle belts out her title number "When You're Good to Mama" and does the duet "Class" with Julia.

An endearing performer is Ben Miller as Amos Hart. The audience falls in love with him from his first entrance as he confesses to a crime he didn't commit until his last when the orchestra doesn't give him any exit music which is par for the course for this schlep. Ben's portrayal as this sad sack character is terrific. The sobsister reporter, Mary Sunshine is wonderfully portrayed by Billy Luce in full drag. As Mary, he uses his powerful falsetto voice in "A Little Bit of Good". She sings how there is good in all people even murderers. Billy does a great job in this humorous role. A big round of applause goes to the 16 male and female dancers in this show who do magnificent work on Dante's choreography which stops the show all night long. So for a phenomenal evening of entertainment, be sure to catch the vaudeville style sizzler of a musical "Chicago" at URI before it dances its way out of town. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Chicago" (17 - 27 April)
@ 105 Upper College Road, KINGSTON RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide