Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Chicago
Ivoryton Playhouse
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Cost of Living


Stacey Harris
Photo by Anne Hudson
Ivoryton Playhouse is currently presenting a thrilling and well-cast production of Chicago. Having seen the Broadway revival nine times, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but this new production is filled with scintillating dances, excellent performances, and, as the sizzling Stacey Harris as Velma Kelly promises in the opening number, all that jazz. This presentation of the Fred Ebb/ John Kander/ Bob Fosse musical should please audiences that are newcomers, as well as those who have seen the show several times.

Among the strongest assets of this Chicago are the largely terrific performances from all the leads. As Roxie Hart, Lyn Philistine brings a great look to the show and her singing is fabulous. She also acts the part wonderfully, with her Roxie coming across as appropriately dumb and somewhat ruthless. With her red hair and big eyes, Philistine even brings to mind the original Broadway Roxie, Gwen Verdon.

The same goes double for Stacey Harris' Velma Kelly: she has a Chita Rivera-like presence onstage, but she makes the role her own. This actress scores in every number, especially the particularly grand "When Velma Takes the Stand" in the second act (and the male dancers around her, complete with straw hats, are pretty superb, as well). Stacey Harris is quite a performer, with a superb singing voice and expert dancing style, and she is great delivering all of Velma's sharp lines. She is an actress I look forward to seeing again.

Also impressive is the conniving and big-smiled Billy Flynn of Christopher Sutton. He puts over his numbers sensationally and gets just about every laugh from the very funny dialogue. Sutton plays Billy Flynn exactly as he should be played, as an only-in-it-for-the-money shyster lawyer, and brings a lot of star quality to the stage. It's also fun to see him doing "Razzle Dazzle" toward the end of the show, and it doesn't hurt at all that he summons up the similar flim-flam character from another musical, Harold Hill.

Ian Greer Shain is a good (if slightly too attractive) Amos Hart, and he gets better as the show goes along, delivering a grand "Mister Cellophane," complete with white gloves, in the second act. Sheniqua Denise Trotman is a wonderful Matron "Mama" Morton and she belts out "When You're Good to Mama" as if she is trying to raise the roof. Finally, Z. Spiegel scores considerably as Mary Sunshine, with an exquisitely sung "A Little Bit of Good," hitting all the operetta-like high notes flawlessly.

Director and choreographer Todd L. Underwood has outdone himself with his work here with an excellent group of dancers, all of whom move sinuously and panther-like throughout the show. The large-scale numbers "We Both Reached for the Gun" and especially the "Cell Block Tango" are electrifying, with the entire company of dancers nailing the Fosse-style choreography perfectly.

The design for this Chicago is entirely appropriate, with a jail-like set designed by Martin Scott Marchitto greeting the audience when the curtain opens. Elizabeth Cipollina's costume and wig design are spot-on and deviously risqué. Marcus Abbott's brilliant lighting design is another big plus, and the on-stage band led by musical director Paul Feyer is fantastic as well. Indeed, Chicago at the Ivoryton Playhouse truly makes all the right moves and is most definitely a production to be celebrated.

Chicago continues performances at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, CT through July 24, 2016. For tickets, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call the box office at 860-767-7318.


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