CHICAGO THE MUSICAL
By Gary Murray
Starring Tracy Shayne, Terra C. MacLeod, John O’Hurley and Ron Orbach
Book by Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Chicago is back and better than ever. The Bob Fosse musical has been around for decades and still manages to thrill audiences. A few years ago it was put on film with Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the lead roles. It has been on national tour for years and it makes its appearance at the AT&T Performing Arts Center as part of the Lexus Broadway Series.
The story of Chicago is of Roxie Hart (Tracy Shayne) a married chorus girl who kills her lover. She is locked in a woman’s prison awaiting trial. Her celebrity cellmate is Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod) a double murderer who is a star of vaudeville. Velma is everything that Roxie wants to be, both famous and infamous.
Roxie sees that her acquittal on murder charges should vault her into the A-list of celebrity in gangster era of the 1920s Chicago. In jail, she meets Mama Morton (Kecia Lewis-Davis). Mama is the woman with the connections and for a price, she can make things happen.
Roxie, through Mama, hires Billy Flynn (John O’Hurley) to be her lawyer. He is a crafty devil of an attorney who cares more about his own celebrity and collecting $5,000 than the pursuit of justice.
The musical is the ins and outs of both the judicial system and the want of celebrity. As we sprint toward the trial, the audience sees all the back-stabbing and jealousies that are the worst of humanity. It is about manipulations and manipulators.
But, Chicago the musical is more about music and this is a classic score. The play opens with “All that Jazz” a sexy number with the barely clothed cast sizzling across the stage. The first big number of Act One is “Cell Block Tango” where we meet the cast of female murders. The ladies tell their tales with a macabre glee, lighting suggesting jail cell bars.
After that big number, Kecia Lewis-Davis makes her entrance on “When You’re Good to Mama” This performer commands the stage with a powerful, throaty voice. She gets a much deserved roaring amount of applause.
Finally, John O’Hurley takes the stage as Billy Flynn. He is best known for his role on Seinfeld and as a game show host. His first big number is “All I Care About” and at first it looks like he was stunt casting. It takes a few bars in before John finds his footing and by the end delivers a strong, room filling performance. He does little acting but plays a perfect MC for the chaos that surrounds. His smile is genuine as the delivers comic lines to both the actors and the on-stage musical director.
The two actresses who play the leads are totally opposite in skills. Tracy Shayne has an amazing voice that packs the hall with harmonious tones. It is a crystal clear instrument that sends chills down the spine. Terra C. MacLeod is a different performer. She shows some killer comic timing and delivers both the comedy and drama of the role with certain flair.
One of the true stand-out performances is by Ron Orbach as Amos Hart. He takes his single song “Mister Cellophane” and turns it into a wanting plea. It is a brilliant combination of pathos and sympathies that wins the audience. He takes the role and turns it into the true victim of the piece.
The play is presented with the band on stage and the action happening in front of the bandstand. The one thing I would like to see is someone to re-imagine the presentation. It seems that it could be done more in a traditional style with the orchestra in the pit and the players on the stage. With a more open floor, the dancing and singing could be opened up.
Chicago is a stalwart production, a classic of the modern musical. This is a must-see show that should not be missed. Do not miss this chance to see it on stage.