Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Maureen McGovern: The Long and Winding Road
Chicago has returned to Washington's National Theatre with a cast including numerous alumni of the Broadway production that premiered in 1996 and is still going strong. The musical is still a dark and glittering gem, even though some of the sharper edges are blunted in this version.
Bob Fosse's original Broadway production of Chicago may have been ahead of its time in its cynicism when it opened in 1975; the show had a respectable run, but it also had the bad fortune to run head-to-head with the juggernaut of A Chorus Line. When City Center's Encores! brought the show back in the mid-1990s, first for a limited run and then a Broadway transfer, Fosse's vision of endemic corruption and the tangled connections between violent crime and entertainment had become mainstream.
Walter Bobbie's directorial vision and Ann Reinking's Fosse-flavored choreography, as recreated by Scott Faris and Gary Chryst respectively, serve up the material in a minimalist format. Rather than flashy scenery and costumes, it's all about the performers, a hard-bodied company that contorts and writhes like a single large organism while taking on a variety of roles.
The fine headliners in this production are sizzling, steely Charlotte d'Amboise as Roxie Hart, the former chorus girl who sees a timely murder as her springboard to fame, and stentorian John O'Hurley as Billy Flynn, the criminal defense attorney who understands how to play a jury like a pipe organ. (Unfortunately, O'Hurley undercuts one of his most memorable lines with a topical ad-lib.) Terra C. MacLeod is sleek and sardonic as Velma Kelly, the queen bee murderess forced to deal with Roxie's sudden notoriety.
Among the supporting cast, Kevin Chamberlin is a lovable sad sack as Roxie's neglected husband; Carol Woods squeezes every drop of innuendo out of her role as the prison matron; and D. Micciche is amusingly tremulous as reporter Mary Sunshine. Evelyn Christina Tonn stands out in the ensemble as a murder suspect who might actually be innocent, but no one cares.
John Lee Beatty's set places the orchestra in a bandstand above the playing area, allowing musical director Don York to become part of the action, and costume designer William Ivey Long has created sleek, skin-tight black costumes. Ken Billington's lighting design denotes the bloody nature of the proceedings with periodically washing the stage in red.
The National Theatre