Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Set amidst the corruption and decadence of Chicago in the 1920s, Chicago is the story of housewife and aspiring nightclub dancer Roxie Hart (Anne Horak) and vaudevillian actress Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod). While her unassuming husband Amos (Todd Buonopane) is at work, Roxie murders her lover, Fred Casely (Jon-Paul Mateo), when he threatens to walk out on her. When she is arrested, she follows the lead of fellow inmate Velma Kelly, who is in jail for shooting her husband and sister after finding them in bed together. With the help of Chicago's top criminal lawyer, Billy Flynn (John O'Hurley), they both attempt to use the media to dupe the public and avoid conviction. By capitalizing on the sensational headlines generated by the scandal of the coverage of their trials, Velma and Roxy hope to both win their cases and launch successful performing careers. While both Flynn and prison matron "Mama" Morton (Carol Woods) enjoy the financial benefits of helping Velma and Roxy, they both know the girls are merely the latest flash-in-the-pan until the next big scandal hits the papers.
The signature all-black costuming for the show, and minimal scenic design (a la the New York revival production) are the setting for the jewel that is Fosse's choreography. The ensemble is blessed with exceptionally strong dancers, and the live, on-stage orchestra plays the score perfectly. A few lighting issues are the only exceptions to sound production values.
A sleek Terra C. MacLeod has a commanding stage presence as Velma and fierce dancing skills. There is a nasal coarseness to her singing voice that matches her character admirably, but makes it unlovely to listen to. It establishes an important difference between Velma and her cohort Roxie. Anne Horak has a beautiful singing voice with unusually clear diction, and is a strong comic actress as well. Her Roxie has a refreshing mixture of clever coyness mixed with unknowing naiveté. While the two actresses are strong separately they are missing a bit of chemistry when together in "Hot Honey Rag."
Established Broadway star Carol Woods has a big voice and big personality as Mama Morton. She is great fun in "When You're Good To Mama" and "Class." She falls into the trap of many celebrities cast in cameos, though, as she seems to be playing herself more than the character. She misses playing up the slightly butch tendencies of the character to her full advantage, and punching lines loaded with double entendres. Todd Buonopane is endearing as Roxie's long-suffering husband Amos Hart. He just needs a bit more commitment to being a nerd. D. Micciche is vocally disappointing as Mary Sunshine. Seeming attempts at a Chicago accent while singing result in odd sounding vowels, and D. Micciche's vibrato morphs into barely more than a buzzing hum sound on some high notes.
The star of this production of Chicago is John O'Hurley as Billy Flynn. Cast aside any stigma placed on TV and film actors for not always transferring their talents well onto the stage. O'Hurley is dashing and charming, works the audience smoothly, and nails every comic moment. In the songs "All I Care About" and "Razzle Dazzle" he embodies all the slick style and finesse of the self-serving Billy Flynn. While there are many good aspects to this show, O'Hurley's performance and the well executed Fosse choreography are the highlights of this production of Chicago.
The successful musical team of John Kander and Fred Ebb met in 1963. Their first musical to be produced on Broadway was Flora the Red Menace, which opened in 1965 and marked Liza Minnelli's Broadway debut. Kander and Ebb collaborated on the Broadway musicals Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Woman of the Year, The Rink, The Happy Time, Steel Pier, Zorba, The Act, And The World Goes 'Round, Fosse and Curtains. They also wrote the music for the movies New York, New York starring Liza Minnelli, and Funny Lady starring Barbra Streisand. Together, Kander and Ebb won three Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Emmy Awards. In 1998 they received Kennedy Center Honors for their contributions to theatre and music. Ebb passed away in 2004 while collaborating with Kander on Curtains. Kander completed the musical with the assistance of librettist Rupert Holmes, and Curtains opened on Broadway in 2007. That same year John Kander and the late Fred Ebb received a Drama Desk special award for "42 years of excellence in advancing the art of the musical theater."
The original Broadway production of the musical Chicago opened on June 3, 1975, at the 46th Street Theatre, where it ran for 936 performances. The revival, which opened at the Richard Rogers Theatre on November 14, 1996, received six Tony Awards. A silent film version of the original play was released in 1927, a second film version called Roxie Hart, starring Ginger Rogers, was released in 1942, and an Academy Award-winning film version of the Kander-Ebb musical starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere was released in 2002. For more information on the musical you may go to www.ChicagoTheMusical.com.
Chicago is presented by Broadway Across AmericaFt. Lauderdale, in conjunction with Bank of America. Broadway Across AmericaFt. Lauderdale is presented in arrangement with the Florida Theatrical Association, which is a non-profit, civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality national touring Broadway productions in the state of Florida. Broadway Across America is dedicated to creating memorable and accessible theatrical experiences for all guests, selling over five million tickets to first rate Broadway shows, family productions and other live theatrical events in over 40 North American cities each year. For more information on this touring production, visit www.chicagothemusical.com/ustour.php.
Chicago will be appearing through October 20, 2013, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is located in the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District at 201 SW Fifth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Presentations at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts are sponsored in part by the State of Florida, the Department of State, the Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support is also contributed by the Broward Performing Arts Foundation, Inc. The Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment Consortium is a cultural partnership between the Performing Arts Center Authority, the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, Florida Grand Opera, Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and The Historic Stranahan House Museum. It is supported by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Visitors Bureau. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts houses the Au-Rene Theater, the Amaturo Theatre, and the Abdo New River Room, and has affiliated venues at the Parker Playhouse, the Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center, and the newly opened Aventura Arts & Cultural Center. For any of the offerings of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts you may contact them by phone at 954-462-0222 or online at www.browardcenter.org.
The actors and stage managers in this production are members of Actor's Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.