Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe


Regional Reviews

Songs + dance + sex
Chicago
National Tour

Also see Dean's review of Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play and Wally's review of The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail


Bianca Marroquin
The story of Chicago has been around a long time, nearly a century, but when the musical version hit Popejoy Hall at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque this week, it seemed as fresh as today's headlines about the latest political corruption and celebrity scandal. The story started as a journalist's report of a sensational murder trial during Prohibition in Chicago in 1924, and morphed into a series of books, plays and movies. The current revival has run longer on Broadway than any other American musical in history—and is still going strong.

It's not hard to tease out the reasons for the show's sensational success. There are three of them: songs with catchy tunes and witty lyrics, magnificently choreographed and highly athletic dancing (Ann Reinking and Bob Fosse), and sex, with beautiful actors using magnificent bodies to flirt, flaunt and provoke. It's an unbeatable triad for popular entertainment and, at the performance I attended, the nearly sold-out audience at Popejoy was suitably appreciative of this road company that has honed its skills in shows all over the country for more than a year.

The staging is unusual but effective. The orchestra sits high up in the middle of the stage and becomes an essential ingredient of the play. At one point a character tells the conductor, "If you learned how to play an instrument, maybe they would give you a chair." A character hands the conductor a newspaper to read, swipes his baton, and starts conducting the orchestra. Despite the hijinks, however, the orchestra is one of the standouts of the show. Its prominence on stage is emphasized because there are no sets, no props, except for a couple of chairs and a ladder seeming to extend into the stratosphere, and even the costumes are reduced to the bare minimum.

Other standouts include Terra C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly and Bianca Marroquin as Roxie Hart as, the two murderesses who are at the center of the action. They seem able to do everything: sing, dance, joke, dramatize, vamp and look sexy in the long-legged, hip-swinging way that Broadway theater has perfected over the decades.

Like Front Page, which transpires in the same city at about the same time, this is a cynical parody of the way newspapers, lawyers, police, juries, and just about everybody else involved in the criminal "justice" system operates, or rather fails to. The story is all about how a couple of women literally get away with murder. But the show is not really about the plot but about the telling, primarily through song and dance. It is intended more to provoke laughter and foot tapping than cerebral activity. There is a time and a place for pure fun, and this is it.

With music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, and a book by a book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, it is hard to see how Chicago could be improved. It seems simply impossible not to like this show. It is also virtually impossible to walk out into the cool night of Central Avenue after the final curtain call without a smile on your face.

Chicago continues through January 18, 2015, Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Popejoy Hall on the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque, which remains the classiest venue in New Mexico. For tickets and information go to popejoypresents.com. You won't be disappointed. For more information on the tour, visit chicagothemusical.com/ustour.php.


Photo: Jeremy Daniel

--Wally Gordon


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