Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
Hedonistic flapper Roxie Hart has just shot her lover for dumping her, and she cons her doormat of a husband Amos into hiring sleazy but media-savvy lawyer Billy Flynn to help her win the sympathy of the public and the jury. Billy also represents murderess Velma Kelly, leading to inmate rivalry when he focuses more attention on Roxie as the public's current flavor-of-the-month. Meanwhile, their fellow inmates, who cannot afford flamboyant lawyers that manipulate the system, are trapped in a criminal justice system that is stacked against them, regardless of their guilt or innocence.
Although set in the Roaring '20s (and based on a play by Maurine Dallas Watkins as well as real events from that period), Chicago's themes of unequal justice, public infatuation with celebrities and scandals, and the manipulative power of the media are remarkably timely nearly a century later.
In this production, the three leadsKady Heard as Roxie, Monica Johns as Velma, and Jay Joseph as Billyare all capable performers, although one could wish for a bit more "razzle dazzle" from each of them. Heard is best when she displays her comic flair and floppy ragdoll physicality; in the scenes where Roxie spouts the lies Billy has taught her, Heard deserves a special award for Best Marionette. There are two standouts in supporting roles: Kellie Wright exudes confidence and stage presence as the brassy prison Matron "Mama" Morton, and also has a great set of pipes. Joshua Meltzer is sweetly pathetic as Amos, and delivers "Mister Cellophane" with endearing understatement.
The stars of the show, however, are the dance ensemble and their adept choreographer, Kimberly Amblad. The dancing is suitably Fosse-esque, with tightly controlled movement, sinewy bodies, and lots of jazz hands.
Shannon Sheldon's costumes conjure up the period and work especially well with the dance numbers. The female ensemble alternates between brightly colored flapper outfits and black-and-white striped prison garb in a different style for each inmate. The choreography's clean lines are emphasized by outfitting the male dancers in white wifebeaters with black pants and suspenders, except for the comical "My Baby and Me," where they reappear in bonnets and baby-blue onesies with peekaboo backsides.
Jeffrey Weber's set design nicely captures the 1920s style, down to the art deco starbursts on the bandstand. Marcus Randolph's colorful lighting design includes some creative special effects.
The onstage band conducted by music director Bill Fayne does an outstanding job with Kander's lively music. This production ditches the intermission, but happily preserves the entr'acte. And when the show is over, you'll want to linger on the lawn as long as the band keeps playing.
Chicago, through August 17, 2019, at the Super Summer Theatre at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, 6375 Nevada Route 159, Blue Diamond NV. Performances are Wednesday-Saturday at 8:05 pm. For tickets ($15 in advance) and further information, visit supersummertheatre.org.