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"The musical, considered too dark when it failed in 1975, today seems right in keeping with hard-learned cynicism about the American justice system."
Divas and divos laced in black are strutting across a Pittsburgh stage and bringing the scandalous stories of Chicago's Cook County jail to life...sometimes death. Chicago, the 1975 American musical set during the roaring 20's, is on stage at the Benedum through Sunday, June 26 and is being presented by the CLO for the first time.
Chicago tells the story Velma Kelly (Terra MacLeod) and Roxie Hart (Dylis Croman). An unlikely pair, the two meet in prison, both jailed for cold-blooded murder. Catty and competitive, the duo compete over Billy Flynn (John O'Hurley), the best lawyer in Chicago, who represents both women in their individual trials. Add in some killer choreography and piercing horns from the orchestra, and you get one heck of a show.
Straying from convention, the rest of the pit join the horns onstage. Placed in a grand stand in the middle of the stage and trimmed with gold lining, the orchestra leaves only a fraction of space for the actors to perform - an interesting choice that proved to work with the cabaret-like atmosphere. This aspect of the set, along with the light poles lining the sides of the orchestra mimics that of the Broadway revival, still running 20 years after it opened.
There are minimal props and costume changes during the performance. There are also minimal costumes on the performers. Netting, lace, vests, and suits as dark as night fill the stage when Ms. MacLeod opens the show with "All That Jazz." Ms. MacLeod, having appeared on Broadway and around the world in the role, is no stranger to Velma. Determined and vigorous in mind and movement, Ms. MacLeod embodies Velma to the fullest. She is resolute in her actions and her dancing is striking.
Opposite her and also familiar with her respective role, Ms. Croman plays the newcomer to the jail, Roxie. Her voice is divine, but she can use a backbone throughout the show. She plays the role like an innocent child, but her cunning mind does not seem to fit her persona; Ms. MacLeod should give some of her character's bitterness to her counterpart. Then the show might elicit a more visceral reaction from that scripted tension.
Mr. O'Hurley, playing the razzle-and-dazzle-some Billy Flynn is always the calm between the fiery storms of Roxie and Velma. Smooth and grand, Mr. O'Hurley is comfortable in the role and never misses a beat. The only problem with him, as with others during the show, came with the audio. Microphones tended to be turned on and off at the sound mixer's mercy the night I saw the show.
Technical difficulties aside, this production makes a mockery of the American justice system, embarrasses reporters, and showcases some of the hottest dances of the century - essentially all things pop culture makes the roaring 20's out to be like. With the memorable songs and bright, flashing choreo, Chicago certainly made the Benedum seem like a swanky speakeasy.
"It's good. Isn't it grand?" questions the song "Nowadays." In terms of this production, the answer to that question is yes. I'll leave the succeeded question up to you: "Isn't it great?"
To see or not to see score: 7/9; Recommended Show
Photo Credit: Matt Polk
Article reprinted with permission from www.BroadwayWorld.com
35 reviews, average rating: (4.3 Stars)
WE have just visited to New York to celebrate my wifes 50th birthday on Aug... more
The show was excellent but I was as impressed by the usher who assisted an ... more
I loved the show! Bebe Neuwirth is so talented, and it made my day seeing h... more
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