Theatre Review: ‘Chicago’ at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre

The Broadway cast of ‘Chicago.’

There is a reason “Chicago” is the longest running American musical in Broadway history! It is hot, sexy, frenetic, and relatable. Yes, there are parallels to this millennium. When watching it I couldn’t help but think about our current obsession with the 5-minute news cycle and sensational news reporting we all claim to be exhausted by today. Apparently, nothing has changed in nearly 100 years. People crave entertainment and also being famous, even for the most heinous crimes. Only today we have better technology to distribute the—dare I say it—fake news.

. . . the eye candy is found in the choreography, which is delivered with all the energy of Time Square on New Years Eve.

“Chicago” is a satire about crime and corruption set in Chicago in the 1920’s Jazz Age that focuses on two “tomatoes”, Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod) and Roxie Hart (Dylis Croman), who murdered their paramours and . landed in jail. The two vie for the public eye so they can control public opinion about—and influence the outcome of—their respective trials. They vacillate between feelings of being thrilled with newfound fame and fear of being hanged.

The police, Roxie and Velma’s attorney (Billy Flynn played by Peter Lockyer), the jail matron (“Mama” Morton played by Jennifer Fouche), the doctor, news reporters, and everyone in between are on the take and looking out for themselves…except Roxie’s poor schmuck of a husband, Amos (Paul Vogt). Amos is so innocently in love with Roxie he is completely at her mercy. Vogt is perfect in the role.

The audience came for the sexy electricity and physically-demanding dance numbers, like Velma’s “Razzle Dazzle”, and were not disappointed. Other stand out numbers were Fouche’s “When You’re Good to Mama”, Croman as a ventriloquist dummy for “We Both Reached for the Gun”, and “Little Bit of Good” sung by D. Ratell as Mary Sunshine.

The set and costumes are simple because the eye candy is found in the choreography, which is delivered with all the energy of Time Square on New Years Eve. No one wanted the party to end. The Chicago devotees cheered at the anticipation of certain numbers and some of the audience said key lines out loud with the actors. It felt a little like Rocky Horror—with jazz hands. Speaking of which—one suggestion for the producers—black light for Vogt’s “Mr. Cellophane” number.

Running time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

“Chicago” runs from February 5-10 at the Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s Auditorium Theatre in Rochester NY. For more information, click here.




Theatre Review: ‘Chicago’ at Niagara University Theatre

There are few musical movie adaptations that are better than “Chicago.” Despite being an incredibly high quality film with both critical and commercial success, it has made many people tougher critics of the stage show because it’s less glamorous. Fortunately, Niagara University Theatre’s sold-out production offers a worthy display of one of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s finest efforts.

. . .a thoroughly entertaining production. . .

The musical is based on a 1926 play by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about the crimes and criminals she reported on. While focusing on the idea of the “celebrity criminal,” the cast performs vaudeville-style numbers to choreography heavily inspired by Bob Fosse, who choreographed the original production.

The cast’s vocals stand out the most in this production. With many iconic tunes spread out among the leading roles, each one was performed with great conviction, diction and impressive belting.

Cassidy Kreuzer is a star-in-the-making. As Roxie Hart, she’s sassy, sexy and strong, bringing a lot of personality to a rather unlikable and occasionally dumbed down character. Her vocals, delivered through an incredibly animated face, are flawless.

Kayla McSorley carries the the darker role of the leading duo as Velma Kelly. While her vocals are stunning and her acting choices spot-on, her dancing had room for improvement, especially noticeable during the finale in a dance duet with the skilled Kreuzer. Despite that, McSorely delivers an entrancing performance of “All That Jazz” and shines alongside Kreuzer in “My Own Best Friend” and Ember Tate in “Class.”

Tate portrays Matron Mama Morton with intoxicating flair. She’s got a killer voice, showcasing her vocal chops from the moment she enters with a boa made of money in “When You’re Good to Mama.” Charles McGregor also delivers a great performance as the sleazy, selfish defense attorney Billy Flynn. His songs require some powerful notes and McGregor’s voice soared.

Other notable performances were Nicholas Edwards’ heartbreaking, innocent Amos Hart and C. Caso’s impressive Mary Sunshine.

Natalie Slipko’s choreography was well suited to the small stage and the talents of the ensemble, giving an appropriate amount of homage to Fosse without choreographing a carbon copy of the existing production. I especially enjoyed “We Both Reached for the Gun” and “Cell Block Tango” as dance numbers.

The only overwhelming criticism I had with the production is the costuming. While well-constructed and period appropriate, they were boring. Velma and Roxie donned a black and grey printed 20’s style dress in the same style as the ensemble women, whose were plain grey. In keeping with other professional productions, no one changed costumes until the end of the show, but the lack of excitement the outfits gave left me wanting some change. For a show that’s known to be dark and sexy, the simple dresses paired with the pants, shirts, vests and ties worn by the male ensemble left a lot to be desired and felt rather conservative given the choreography and style the show is known for. It’s function was okay for the production, but it feels like there was a missed opportunity here.

Vocally impressive and filled with Fosse, ‘Chicago’ is a thoroughly entertaining production anyone with a ticket is lucky to see. Thanks to a well cast troupe, it offers memorable performances by incredibly promising young talent.

Running time: 2 hours and 25 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.

“Chicago” runs through April 29, 2018 at Niagara University. For more information, click here.