"All That Jazz" isn't the only show stopper in `Chicago."
Just the first one.There are 19 other tunes in rapid-fire (as in shots from pistol-packin' mamas) succession, ranging from "cool" to steamy hot.
You won't find much sweetness and light here. This is Chicago during the throes of the Jazz Age.
When sexy, sultry Velma Kelly (a sizzling performance by Donna Marie Asbury) belts out that she knows a place "where the gin is cold and the piano's hot," you'd better believe her.
She may be a murderer, but she's an honest one.
Velma's just one of the tawdry babes doing time in the women's cell block of the Cook County Jail, where they're shepherded over by Matron "Mama" Morton (a knockout performance by Avery Som-mers). She won't take no guff, sister, but if you've got $50 or $100 for extra favors . . .
Hot on the heels of killing her lover (in self-defense, of course), feisty little Roxie Hart is tossed into the cell block, literally teeming with scorned, but sensual, Chicago women. ("Ladies" would be too much of an overstatement.)
Charlotte d'Amboise is Roxie's heart and soul. You care not a whit that Roxie is a lying, cheating little vixen. She's just so darn lovable - the very thing that gets furniture mover Fred Casely shot.
Ah, but help is on the way - in the guise of flamboyant, money-grubbing lawyer Billy Flynn, played to the hilt by Brent Barrett. It's guys like Flynn who give shysters a bad name. But, hey, he'll stick with you through thick and thin - unless a bigger, headline-grabbing celebrity falls into his lap . . . or into his bed.
Other fine performances were given by Ron Orbach as Roxie's incredibly dull husband, Amos (his "Mister Cellophane" lament in Act Two is both hilarious and touching) and M.E. Spencer as media VIP Mary Sunshine, who writes all of her stories through rose-colored glasses and believes there's "A Little Bit of Good" in everyone.
Ann Reinking's choreography is nothing less than sensational. She's captured the essence of Bob Fosse's original work and lovingly replicated it during the "Hot Honey Rag" finale.
"Chicago" showcases one terrific number after another. A handful of the more notable ones include Velma and "Mama" Morton lamenting what's become of "Class" (sprinkled with language that's anything but), Billy Flynn turning the trial into a three-ring circus in "Razzle Dazzle" and Roxie's dreams of hitting the vaudeville circuit with her retinue of hunky men in "Roxie."
Kudos to Jack Gaughan and his 13-member orchestra, comprised of four who travel with the show, augmented by nine locally recruited musicians.
The stage's proscenium is bordered by a giant, golden picture frame. Is it a hint that, just maybe, the Merry Murderesses have all been framed? Or that this production is picture-perfect.
Most likely the latter.
- Sensitivity rating: "Chicago" is filled with profanity, vulgarity, sensual movement and adult subject matter. Much of it is more tongue-in-cheek than outright offensive. The characters are, after all, lowlifes from the streets of Chicago in the Roaring '20s. They're supposed to be gritty.