Chicago is hotter than ever, having been given new life by both its minimalist 1996 Broadway revival (still running) and the 2002 Academy Award-winning film version. The Theater of the Stars is now presenting a snazzy national company of the musical, playing at the Fox through Sept. 13. The dark wit and cynical tone of Chicago caught Broadway audiences by surprise in its original 1975 production; even the incredible, groundbreaking Bob Fosse choreography could not sway Tony Award voters and audiences from their wonder at another new show in town that year: A Chorus Line, which won every award in sight, including the Pulitzer.
If the original Chicago was slightly ahead of its time, let’s just say audiences have caught up. You probably know the show is set in the Roaring 20’s and deals with the “merry murderesses” Roxie Hart and her rival cellmate Velma Kelly. To avoid conviction, they hire Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer, Billy Flynn (a surprisingly well-cast Jerry Springer, of all people), who uses the power of the tabloid media to make celebrities of Roxie and Velma, and get them off scott-free, if he can.
The show is outrageous, hilarious, completely irreverent, and totally theatrical; the opening night audience at the Fox ate it up. The orchestra is onstage; there is virtually no set—just a bunch of dazzlingly lithe, sexy bodies who sing and dance like nobody’s business. The legendary Fosse choreography, recreated by Ann Reinking and now Gary Chryst, is spectacular. You really need to see this show live to get the visceral punch Chicago is capable of delivering, and as up close as possible (good luck with that at the Fox).
The cast is first-rate: All have impressive Broadway and other professional credits. Except for Mr. Springer, you may not know their names, but they are the real deal. Leading roles include Terra C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly; Bianca Marroquin as Roxie Hart; Tom Riis Farrell as Amos (Roxie’s long, long-suffering husband); Carol Woods as a show-stopping Mama Morton; and D. Micciche as Mary Sunshine (a role full of surprises). I wish I could list all the dancers, many of whom double as other characters. It is a stage full of sublimely talented professionals. They will show you a good time.
Remember the musical numbers? They’re all here: “All That Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango,” “When You’re Good to Mama,” “All I Care About,” “Mister Cellophane,” “My Own Best Friend,” “Class,” and others. If you’ve never seen this show, go. If you’re a fan, this company is special. It’s here only through Sunday. Pertinent web sites are ticketmaster.com and theaterofthestars.com.