Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Chicago is Still a Razzle Dazzle Musical

Also see Richard's reviews of Equus, Pardon My English and Moonlight and Magnolias

John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse's Chicago has come roaring into town again and it will be playing at the Orpheum Theatre through November 5th. I have seen this entertaining musical ten times over the years. I first saw it at the 46th Street Theatre in New York during the winter of 1975 when Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon and Jerry Orbach lit up the town during those cold winter months. The Encores! revival in 1996 sparked new interest with its new look of the orchestra on stage and minimal props to tell the story of Roxie Hart. I saw that revival at the Richard Rodgers Theatre during the winter of 1996. The show is still running and has clocked an amazing 4100+ performances. I have seen the musical in London, Los Angeles and even Columbus, Ohio, plus the original play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins.

Chicago is still a razzle dazzle musical and the current cast of the touring production is terrific. Terra C. Macleod (originated the role of Velma in Montreal and Paris) is a husky and earthy Velma. She has a voluptuous voice belting out the songs. Her moves are dynamic and she is captivating in the role of Velma.

Michelle DeJean (longstanding member of the Broadway company) is spectacularly lithe as Roxie Hart. Her dancing reminds me of a combination of Gwen Verdon and Bebe Neuwirth. The scene where she has to sit on the knee of Billy Flynn and play a "dummy" is side-spitting. Her clownish pathos in some scenes is excellent. She wrings laughs from every possible phrase when singing.

Huey Lewis (Grammy winner) is the hook to get the public to see this production. He makes for a different Attorney Billy Flynn. His smoky voice sometimes has problems reaching the high notes of "All I Care About." He just walks through the role.

Carol Woods (New York Chicago, Follies, Smokey Joe's Cafe) is perfect as Matron "Mama" Morton. Her powerful rendition of "When You're Good to Mama" rings out through the theatre. Her duet with Terra C. Macleod in "Class" is sassy. Ron Orbach (Chicago veteran, plus Dance of the Vampires) once again shines as Amos Hart and sings a poignant arrangement of "Mr. Cellophane." R. Bean (performed the role for four years on Broadway) as Mary Sunshine is irrepressible, especially when singing those oh, so high notes in "A Little Bit of Good."

The cast of this touring company certainly gives their all in this production. All of the dancers shine in the Ann Reinking choreography that still gives tribute to the original Bob Fosse arrangements. The orchestra on stage led by Vincent Fanuele gives an exuberant feel to the Kander and Ebb score.

Chicago plays through November 5th at the Orpheum Theatre, Market at 9th San Francisco. For tickets on line link on

Best of Broadway events coming up are Cherry Jones in John Patrick Shanley's Doubt opening on November 7 at the Golden Gate Theatre, and Edward Scissorhands on November 11 at the Orpheum Theatre.

Photo: Paul Kolnik

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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