My kinda of place, Chicago is! Sinatra made the song a hit in the 60s, would probably retract the cheerful tune if it meant it would be used as the backdrop for all the calamity, murder and good time jazz. Some songs are meant to be enjoyed not reminiscent of murderesses claiming their innocence in killing their men. I doubt this is what Sinatra had in mind about Chicago being his kind of town. He didn’t have to deal with villainous people like the seductive Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod) or the endearing Roxie Hart (Michelle T. Williams from the Grammy-award winning R&B group “Destiny’s Child”) who later gets swept up in all the hoopla and drama, courtesy of “news reporter” Mary Sunshine (R. Lowe). Soon, the two vie for the spotlight and hire the same attorney to get them out of their jam. Billy Flynn (Brent Barrett) is the knight on the white horse with his hand out comes to their rescue. Flynn’s true nature comes out in his number “Razzle Dazzle”. He truly is a legend in his own mind but, he is, a hard working louse who gets his clients off. Whether they deserve it is a different story.
The multi-Tony award winning play has brought many talented stars as the principal characters such as former “Fraiser” actress Bebe Neuwirth as Velma who won for Best Musical Actress in 1997. However, it wasn’t until the 2002 movie that people took notice how grand the musical is. Oscar winners Catherine Zeta-Jones played Velma while blonde bombshell Roxie was played by Renee Zellwegger. Richard Gere was the slick tongue devil in the good suit, was Billy Flynn. Now everyone wants to see the “Cell Block Tango” where each murderess tells her version on how her partner actually died. My favorite one is the very statuesque June (Andrea Mislan) who shared with the audience that she minded her own business carving up a chicken for dinner when her man came home accusing her of screwing the milkman. Unable to get a word in to defend herself, she calmly said that Wilbur walked into her knife…10 times! She carved something up for dinner that night, for sure. Or Liz (Lindsay Roginski) who shot two warning shots at her boyfriend Bernie for popping, not chewing, his gum. He got the message when those two warning shots were aimed at his head. Choreographed by Ann Reinking, ironically won the Helpmann Award for Best Choreography ironically for Chicago. The ladies executed great dance numbers, especially using of course, the tango as an inspiration.
The heart strings will definitely be played when the vulnerable, sappy character of Amos Hart (played wonderfully by Tom Riis Farrell) the dumbfounded husband of Roxie. His dance number “Mr. Cellophane” perfectly describes this poor man’s life. Everything about Amos screams, ‘hold me or give me Xanax’. He has a cheating wife, who’s in jail for murdering her lover Fred Casely, Brent Heuser does a great job on his few minutes on stage.
Director (Walter Bobbie) had an extraordinary job on directing this overwhelming, massive production. He delivered a solid winner with tremendous voices, outstanding dance sequences while still keeping in perspective that how serious the situation is with these inmates even as they treat it as a joke. A constant reminder is the Russian inmate Hunyak (Ashley Adamek) who’s the only innocent one of the bunch and still gets punished.
Carol Woods plays the vivacious and not-to-be-messed-with ‘Matron’ Mama Morton (portrayed by rapper/actress Oscar-nominated Queen Latifah in the 2002 movie) no nonsense hustler who provides favor for a hefty price. Woods’ voice made the house lights shake as she let out a melsamatic voice, permeated through out the theater. She was wonderful to see and hear. She goes toe-to toe with Flynn and doesn't back down and she doesn’t need to. She’s the keeper of the keys not a keeper of her own cell. This is a definite must-see! This is also the second time the Pantages have brought back this incredible production and its clear why they did. First, the two hours and 30 minutes goes by quick. The first act is song after song after great song barely giving you time to catch your breath. The routines are quick but memorable and everyone looks like they are having the greatest time. The audience cannot get enough of the high energy. It even makes prison look good. But, not that good. Like Matron Mama Morton said, “In this town, murder's a form of entertainment.”
CHIGAGO plays through May 9 at the Pantages Theatre located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, California. For reservations call (323) 468-1770 log on to www.broadwayla.org