'Chicago: The Musical'
(Fisher Theatre, Detroit, MI - May 17th, 2011)
The triumphant hit musical 'Chicago' finally had its delayed opening night at the Fisher Theatre and boy, was it worth waiting for!
Broadway's razzle-dazzle smash, the recipient of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards, a Grammy and thousands of standing ovations; inclusive of en mass to their collective feet tonight, is the sensational tale of sin, corruption, ... and all that jazz!
And, for added showbiz appeal, John O'Hurley (he of the iconic role as J. Peterman in 'Seinfeld') takes the role here of lawyer Billy Flynn; playing Detroit's Fisher Theater now through May 22nd.
Ever since it opened on Broadway in 1975, 'Chicago: The Musical' has introduced the Windy City's prohibition era and its subsequent swinging sounds to younger generations. Here tonight, as the lights went down on the noticeably older crowd, and the hot young scantily-clad blonde came stage right to introduce us to the show, well, you just knew all the guys in the audience were going to have to keep their wandering eyes in check!
Act 1 opens with the classic 'All That Jazz,' and features Velma Kelly and company. Played in fine at-the-peak-of-her game style by Terra C. MacLeod, her vocal pitch does give cause for initial concern, but that worry soon dissipates as she warms up. The next stand-out moment, if not the routine of the night is 'Cell Block Tango,' where six prison inmates all relate stories of how they killed their men!
All lined up on chairs front of stage, they move, they groove, they spill their beans and come the near 10 minute finale, well, let's just say we feel more sorry for them then the men they murdered!
Next up and we are welcomed into the world of predatory prison matron "Mama" Morton! Played in incredible vocal style by Roz Ryan (a Detroit native, no less) she steals every single scene she is in! Her take on 'When You're Good to Mama' is captivating.
And so we also get to meet Roxie Hart, played by a seductive Tracy Shayne; a noticeably older lady than we've seen take the role before, but one that still has the energy of a teenager; that's for sure!
The first appearance of John O'Hurley comes in 'All I Care About,' but it's immediately noticeable that he hasn't got a great singing voice. Indeed, 95% of his time on stage is spoken word - and, at times, he seems to stutter in his head as he searches for the right lines at the right times.
That said, his voice is deep, textured and bodes well with the songs he is given. He also seems to enjoy a well-choreographed fan-feather routine, and even adds his own flavor to the performance. Such as when he (seemingly) breaks character, turns to the conductor, removes his baton from his hand, and says (pointing at the on-stage orchestra pit): "You know, if you got yourself a proper instrument, they'd give you a chair!"
Into Act 2 and we get more storyline surrounding Mary Sunshine (T.W. Smith), a gossip columnist who is not what she appears to be, and one of the (sad) highlights of the show, Roxie's husband Amos's (Ron Orbach) big number, 'Mr. Cellophane,' a lament on the worst thing that can befall an actor: not to be noticed!
"Mama" continues to spread her thoughts far and wide, inclusive of her take on dating: "Do you know what the difference is between dating and screwing around? Dinner!" And even the court room scene where Billy is able to score major headlines for Roxie's trial (SPOILER! ... which ends in an acquittal!), is well orchestrated; stage set, lit, acted by the ensemble cast.
And so, this tale of celebrity criminals - Roxie Hart and her rival Velma Kelly - within the confines of 'Chicago: The Musical' has everything you could want in a show: stunning dancing, an edge-of-your-seat story, and one showstopper after another.
Review by: Russell A. Trunk