Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Also see Mark's review of Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant: A Snowball's Chance and David's review of Boogieban
It's a masterful tale of murder, gin joints, chorus girls, sex, sin and "all that jazz." Chicago recently landed once again in the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square. Ohio State Buckeye and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George stars in the touring production as the smarmy Billy Flynn opposite Terra C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly, and Dylis Croman as Roxie Hart, as Billy's "guilty as sin" clients.
Roxie is a back of the group chorus girl with dreams of bigger things. Although married to a "steady Eddie" type named Amos (Paul Vogt), she has an affair with Fred Casely (Andrew Eckert), who sells furniture but claims to have show biz "connections." When Roxie realizes that Fred is another dead end, she murders him in cold blood after which she convinces her husband to take the rap, claiming that Fred was a burglar.
When the police arrive, Amos realizes he knows the victim and it was not a burglary. Roxie is arrested and sent to the Cook County Jail where she meets Matron "Mama" Morton (wonderfully played by Jennifer Fouché), who acts as booking and press agent for her charges. Roxie shares the limelight with Velma, who is not happy with having her double murder trial put aside in favor of the new kid on the cell block. Things come to a head when one of the women housed in the unit is actually executed (the first in 47 years).
This is a show that is chock-full of showstoppers, with such memorable numbers as "All That Jazz," "Cell Block Tango," "When Your Good to Mama," "We Both Reached for the Gun," "Mister Cellophane," and of course, "Razzle Dazzle." The fourteen-piece orchestra is the key driving force of the show, with their central location on a large riser complex at the center of the stage. There are scant props and even scantier costumes in this ode to corrupt lawyers, sensational headlines, jazz, gin, and the roaring '20s.
Eddie George does a reasonable job as the corrupt and scrupleless attorney who sees each femme fatale as a $5,000 pay check, and Dylis Croman does an adequate job with the role of Roxie. Jennifer Fouché in the jazzy role of Matron "Mama" Morton could use a little more sass. The big surprises (no pun intended) are Paul Vogt as Amos Hart, doing an amazing job with the mournful "Mister Cellophane," and D. Ratell as Mary Sunshine the feminist reporter. Another example of a tiny role enlarged by the sheer talent of the actor is Matthew Winnegge as "The Jury"; his carrying-ons are a delight.
With all the gray days of winter clouding our brains, it was nice to get out and into a comfortable theater for a raucous evening of hot music, dancing and comedy. While not up to the standards of previously witnessed productions, this tour is good enough as an early winter break and retreat from the holiday pressures.
Chicago, appeared at the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square November 27 - December 2, 2018. For tickets and information on future Playhouse Square shows, visit www.playhousesquare.com, call 216-241-6000, or stop by the Playhouse Square box office in the outer lobby of the State Theatre. For more information on the Chicago tour, visit chicagothemusical.com/new-york/ustour/.