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A review of Chicago, the musical

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower, Robert Abrams
October 18, 2002
ny,chicago|ny,il|usa,usa

Chicago, The Musical

October 18, 2002
Shubert Theatre
Review by Roberta E. Zlokower

A John Kander and Fred Ebb Production, originally Choreographed and Directed by Bob Fosse, currently choreographed by Ann Reinking (who will perform at Shall We Dance, October 21, 2002, City Center, see Announcement) and currently directed by Walter Bobbie. Stars Charlotte d'Amboise (formerly of Contact, see Review), Deidre Goodwin, Taye Diggs, P.J.Benjamin, Roz Ryan, and R. Bean.

Revisiting Chicago, All That Jazz and Hot Honey Rag never sounded better. It has been years since I last saw this Broadway show, and what a thrill! Roxie Hart (Ms. D'Amboise) and Velma Kelly (Deidre Goodwin) danced in solos and duets, legs straight in the air, swiveling hips, provocative poses and songs, in a truly dynamic Modern Jazz style. The theme of the show, which takes place in and around a prison and courtroom in Chicago in the 1920's, involving various women who have killed their men for walking out on them, for infidelity, or for snapping gum provides the looseness of style that allows a jazz orchestra, on a raised open stage, to intermingle with the cast. The musicians become part of the act, and actors suddenly switch roles from prisoners to jury. There is a raucous and racy, but not seedy, feel to the sets, staging, choreography, lyrics, and lighting. Blacks, smoky gray, reds, tinsel, glitter, silver, and amazing lighting effects (by Ken Billington) give this totally uninhibited series of song, jazz, and dance routines an underground style and sensuous, sexy ambiance.

Watching Chicago, I thought of the metaphor of Argentine Tango—same colors, some of the costumes would be similar to Tango clothes, tales of crimes of passion, rejection, and a predatory environment, and, in fact, one song was called, Cell Block Tango, as the female prisoners related, in ever-rising tempos, their twisted tales of woe and wanton revenge. The streets of 1920's Chicago could have been the streets of 1920's Buenos Aires, and the dancers sitting in rows, casually gyrating, whispering, plotting, and gazing could have all been Tangueros on the sidelines of a weekend Milonga. Roxie was crying that although her life was saved in court, the Press had disappeared, so all was lost. There were continued metaphorical allusions to Tango, as we know it in NYC.

To return to the actual show, Chicago, let us hope that it runs forever, as the audience was so royally and professionally entertained. Charlotte d'Amboise danced with remarkable flexibility and coyness. Deidre Goodwin could move her head and every joint and limb in any direction she pleased. Taye Diggs was superb as the charismatic and clever lawyer, both engaging and energetic. P.J. Benjamin as Mr. Cellophane, the husband, was charming in his slow, but soulful song and dance routine. Roz Ryan, as the zaftig Mama Morton of the Prison, was totally confident and seasoned. R. Bean was a complete surprise and, like all the other stars, just mentioned, gave us a Bravura performance. Run to the Shubert and buy a ticket to see Chicago.




Postscript by Robert Abrams

When you attend as many dance performances as ExploreDance.com reviewers do, you start to see parallels in unexpected places. Here are two I found in Chicago. Many of the scenes in Chicago used actors sitting on the side of the stage to frame the action. This was similar to Gina Gibney's recent work. Chicago also featured an inventive use of feather fans to create shapes and frame a main character. This was similar to some of the passages in Momix's Opus Cactus.

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