Over the last 25 years, WIOD reporter/anchor Ed Goodman has reviewed and interviewed players from both professional and amateur theatre, music and dance companies from St Louis to South Florida. Ed earned a degree in Theatre Arts and has performed and directed in professional, and high-end amateur theatrical companies.
Broward Center for Performing Arts
Through October 19th
Put music by the legendary John Kander and Fred Ebb together with the unbeatable choreography of the equally legendary Bob Fosse and Ann Reinking (the show’s original choreographer “…in the style of Fosse…”) and you get the mega Tony Award winning (7) hit “Chicago”, on stage now at Broward Center. It’s a bawdy tale of those sultry, murdering mistresses of mayhem, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly who will stop at nothing to achieve fame and notoriety.
Most everyone knows the storyline, but just in case: “Chicago” is set in the decadent 1920s and is the story of Roxie Hart (Anne Horak), sometime housewife to Amos (Todd Buonopane) and wannabe big time nightclub dancer/star who kills her on-the-side lover when he threatens to walk out. Desperate to dodge a conviction, she cons the public, the media and cellmate, Velma Kelly (Terra MacCleod), by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer, Billy Flynn (John O’Hurley) to transform her crime into a barrage of sensational headlines and ultimately freedom forever. And does it all work out? Of course it does – its all that jazz - and lots of show biz.
John O'Hurley as Billy Flynn
Although John O’Hurley gets the headline playing Billy Flynn (a role he’s done on Broadway and in national tours), its Velma and Roxie who own the show. Both MacLeod and Horak have also played their respective roles on Broadway and on the road and it shows in their strong performances. Velma’s “I Can’t Do It Alone” number is killer, as is her “When Velma Takes the Stand”. Roxie’s signature “Roxie” and “Me and My Baby” also were standouts, along with her turn as a ventriloquist’s dummy in “We Both Reached For the Gun” with O’Hurley. The main cast is rounded out nicely by Amos Hart (Paul Buonopane) who did a great turn in minstrel-like gloves with “Mr. Cellophane” and “Mama” (Carol Woods) the cellblock matron.
Special kudos to the hard working company’s singers and dancers. Their crisp lines brought visions of Bob Fosse and Ann Reinking’s dazzling choreography to some amazing levels throughout the show. Their opening number “All That Jazz” with Velma set the mood and tempo perfectly.
That good energy and vibe carried all the way through Act 1, but seemed to slow down a bit in Act 2. That act, anchored by Flynn’s big number “Razzle Dazzle”, had the razzle, but not enough dazzle for me. I would have liked to see O’Hurley do a little more with it – like dancing (which he’s good at) to compliment his good singing voice. Same thing for Roxie and Velma's last number together. The build up was off and it didn't match their earlier high energy levels. Both numbers seemed a bit slow for what and where they are to the show. They seemed to need the other “z” word – pizzazz.
The minimalist set (not unusual for a touring show) showed off an excellent 13 piece band, but limited the downstage area for the actors and dancers. At times it seemed too abstract, restrictive and one dimensional.
All in all, you can’t beat the music and choreography in this nearly 20-year old show. It’s still got “legs”, as they say, and they get a lot of much deserved notice in this production. It’s a very good way to spend the night at the theatre.
“Chicago” runs through October 19th
Tickets are available at Broward Center box office
Online at www.browardcenter.org.