C for Chicago

Posted by on Aug 8, 2012 in commentary, Ordway Plays | No Comments

Pre-Ramble:  This is the second in a series ( … can’t really be a series if there isn’t more than one, right?! … ) of Guest Blogger reviews covering this season’s performances at the Ordway Theater in Saint Paul.  Last night was the local opening of Broadway’s Tony Award-winning musical, “Chicago.”

The play’s reputation precedes it …

“One of the most popular musicals of all time … CHICAGO has everything that makes Broadway great: a universal tale of fame, fortune and all that jazz; one show-stopping-song after another; and the most astonishing dancing you’ve ever seen … spectacular fantasies of music and dance … tongue-in-cheek commentary on the cult of celebrity and the scandalous lengths to which people will go to attain it … the score is iconic and the dancing superb!”

Based on last night’s show, all of this is definitely the case … which makes it all the more frustrating that it wasn’t until the middle of the second act that the production hit its stride.

Taken individually however, the singing, dancing, acting and orchestra were top notch … A few quick notes on the good stuff:

  • The orchestra — which plays seamlessly from a huge “box” in the center of the stage — was phe – no – me – nal — !!!
  • Attorney to the stars, Billy Flynn, was played brilliantly by John O’Hurley (who also played the “J. Peterman” character on “Seinfeld” — can’t miss his freakishly unmistakable tone and delivery)
  • Amos Hart, played by Ron Orbach – great understated performance – (spoiler-alert … look for his expertly controlled break-out in the second act)
  • The quasi-narrative Matron Mama Morton played by Kecia Lewis-Evans was a stand-out, commanding presence; the quality of her voice was simultaneously delicate and thundering
  • By the end of the show, you can’t take your eyes off diminutive spitfire Roxie, played by Broadway veteran Tracy Shayne
  • Costumes scanty enough to be provocative without being inappropriate (I’m all for minimal, but could have used a little more color or styling to differentiate characters and bits of the action)
  • Did I mention that the orchestra was  phe – no – me – nal — !??
  • The scene where the sparkles rain down on the dancing cast was unexpectedly magical
  • Seriously sparkly shoes in Act II … I want them.

The Take-Away:  For me, Chicago the play gets a solid “C” … But, the music and the actors and all that jazz … have to give that a resounding A+


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