Source: Phoebe Wantz
Phoebe Wantz writes...
Spotlight, please! Slinky shoulder roll! Tip my hat to Cast and Crew of CHICAGO!
It was a tribute, as much as a revival, to Bob Fosse. Muncie Civic did Fosse and themselves proud Friday night with the opening of CHICAGO on their Mainstage Theatre to an almost full house. Under Michael Daehn's sharp direction, and the wonderful Musical Direction of Michael Williamson, and the outstanding choreography of Alexandria Van Paris and Heather A. Closson, any newcomers to the trademark Fosse dance style will be dazzled, and those who have seen it before will be thrilled to see once more just how smart, sexy, and exciting this brand of choreography was, or is. Watch those swiveling wrists, slinky shoulder rolls, and angular poses and relive this and other Fosse productions such as "Cabaret" and "Sweet Charity."
The musical was considered too dark when it first appeared in 1975, but it is right in keeping with today's justice system with all the "razzle dazzle" about manipulating jurors and the pseudo celebrity of criminals.
With an 11-piece orchestra in the pit under the precise and marvelous direction of Michael Williamson, the cast performs the overlooked 1975 score by John Kander and Fred Ebb sans props and period attire for the most part. Patty Daehn's costumes are mostly variations of black formal wear/lingerie, mini-dresses, or both, which vaguely suggest a 1920's gangland flavor while offering abundant opportunity for the women to display their leggy assets, yet another Fosse trademark.
Michael Daehn must be commended for leading this cast in this homage, which in lesser hands, could have been a museum piece, or, quite frankly with many of the roles cast with such young performers a less than outstanding performance. Daehn surmounted all obstacles thrown in his path (and there were many...illness, BSU commitments and auditions) to give Muncie audiences an evening to remember of beautiful voices and magnificent dancing. Kudos, Mr. Director!
From the sizzling "All that Jazz" to the expertly staged and performed "Cell Block Tango" in which Carolyn Barry (Velma Kelly) leads the female chorus through a darkly hilarious rendition of excuses of why it's OK to commit murder the song gives each performer a time to shine in the spotlight.....loved it!
CHICAGO is set in the 1920's in the title city and based on a true story of the time. Roxie Hart (Alexandria Van Paris) is married to Amos Hart (Zach Tabor) a real loser whose self-esteem is so low he sings an ode to himself called "Mr. Cellophane Man." This is Tabor's moment to shine and shine he did. The audience loved him. Roxie shoots and kills her lover and is sent to prison to await trial. There she meets the mercenary, but all to attentive warden, "Mama" Morton, which is wickedly played by Amanda Hummer. Prison inmates to keep Roxie company is a sultry chorus of tough-as-nails jailbirds, headed by the conniving Velma Kelly (Barry) who dreams of having her criminal celebrity rocket her into showbiz success.
However Velma's star is overshadowed by Roxie who becomes the new "criminal du jour." Both women hire hot shot lawyer, Billy Flynn (Corey Rudell) who takes an interest in both women for $5000 reasons and revamping Roxie's image from moll to doll.
Van Paris, acting in a broad style, which seems right out of a vaudeville sketch, hits just the right balance between cold-hearted dame and scared gal-done-wrong. She wins over the audience with her bright personality, warm phrasing, and way with a lyric, which shows through and radiates out through the auditorium. Barry, with a short cap haircut, and her toned dancer's body, was perfect for the contortions of the choreography, and couldn't be better as the bitter con with stars in her eyes.
Rudell, in a Ziegfield-style number with the female chorus equipped with huge white feather fans, croons in 1920's style that all he cares about is money.....truly a show stopper in my opinion.....very well done.
An extremely hilarious performance was given by Mary Sunshine (C. Ricks). I will not spoil this for you by describing it here....just sit back and enjoy!
What this show proves is that musicals are about songs and performers, not scenery. Although I must say that David Sherrill did a grand job on the CHICAGO lit up sign and the ROXIE sign....I was impressed.
Due to the outstanding choreography and the dancing of the chorus, I want to give them all recognition here. I know how difficult this was and you were all so very talented! Female Ensemble: Cynthia Nesbit, Shelby Putlak, Natalie Masini, Caitlin Burnham, Casey Prins, Anna Segatti, Sam McNulty. Male Ensemble: Jimmy Stipanowich (M.C.), Tristan James, Ryan Heneisen, Dylan Passman, Fletcher Harold Michaelis Oakes, Cameron Tragesser, Kyler Kays.
Only thing that threw me off just a little, and trust me, it is not enough to keep you away from this fabulous show. But, I have never seen a picture anywhere of a lady from the 1920's with ponytails high on her head. I know we're not trying to be exact period here, but 1920's and ponytails? 1920's hairstyles would have been nice, but....oh, well.....minor thing.
Do not miss this fine presentation by Muncie Civic Theatre. You can purchase Tickets Online! Muncie Civic Theatre presents CHICAGO on the Mainstage Theatre, April 20th-21st, 27th-29th & May 3rd-5th. Thursday through Saturday performances are at 7:30pm and the Sunday matinee on April 29th is at 2:00pm.