Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chicago: The Musical Theatre Review

Terra C. MacLeod (center) Photo: Paul Kolnik

The Jazz Slayer!

Chicago: The Musical has certainly withstood the test of time: Last November, it became the second longest running show in Broadway history. Last night (at the beautiful National Theatre) was my first time seeing it (the movie doesn't count, does it?) and I must say... It's absolutely fantastic. Chicago is a lot like the city it's named after: Funny, sexy and full of energy. In the words of Roz Ryan (Mama) "In this town, murder is a form of entertainment." Consider me slayed.

Just seconds in, it was abundantly clear... this cast can move. The Ladies were equal parts gorgeous and talented (look no further than "Cell Block Tango," quite possibly the show's best number.) As far as pure talent goes, this is the best assembly of dancers I've seen live in years. Ditto for the two leads, Terra C. MacLeod as Velma, and Bianca Marroquín as Roxie. MacLeod is one cool customer (think Greta Garbo, minus most of the aloofness) whose fancy legwork would make any Rockette blush with envy. Marroquín is an adorable mix of Rita Moreno and Joan Rivers with a healthy dose of Ginger Rogers thrown in for good measure (wrap your head around that combination, why don't you?)

John O'Hurley and the Ladies of Chicago

Standing up to ladies of this caliber is no easy task; but John O'Hurley appears perfectly at ease on stage, jumping from one client to another without skipping a beat. His interaction with the show's musical conductor (Robert Billig) was both creative and hilarious. The line of the night? O'Hurley's Flynn tells Billig, "You know, if you get yourself a real instrument, they'll give you a chair." Cue howls of laughter from the audience, this critic included. Minutes later, Billig is engaged again, this time by a boastful Roxie, who can't wait to show off her latest newspaper headline. Publicity plays a major part in the show, often usurping minor details like murder and stardom. Roxie definitely has her priorities in order, as evidenced by her comely, "Anything for the press."

The story is devilishly delightful, and the players sell it with conviction and plenty of humor (a lot more than the movie, if you ask me.) Marroquín proves utterly engaging throughout, giggling up a storm and stealing hearts in the process. She has a nice voice and even nicer disposition. "Me and My Baby" is a blast; although her duets with MacLeod leave a lot to be desired. Numbers such as "My Own Best Friend," and "Nowadays" fail to inspire: Their voices tend to clash, instead of syncing. On the other hand, their second act dance routine ("Hot Honey Rag") proves to be a lesson in perfect symmetry: Go figure.

When it comes to pipes, none can compete with Ryan, who delights early on with her cheeky rendition of "When You're Good to Mama." Jacob Keith Watson (stuck with the thankless role of Roxie's hubby Amos) has his moments, but ultimately "Mister Cellophane" wanes on far too long. O'Hurley is as good as Richard Gere; but let's be real... he's here to act and be charming, not sing. The show's most familiar tune ("All That Jazz") sets a tasty table; but I prefer "We Both Reached for the Gun," and the aforementioned "Cell Block Tango."

The first act is as good an act as I've seen in quite a while. It moves along at a brilliant pace, and features loads of fun and sexiness. Truth be told, I had a smile on my face for almost the entire first half of the show. After intermission... Chicago runs into some stormy weather (Roxy's trial and O'Hurley's "Razzle Dazzle" leap to mind) but not enough to do any real damage.

John Lee Beatty's set is unique, in so far as three quarters of the stage is taken up by the orchestra. Surprisingly, there's still plenty of room for the two dozen or so actors to move around easily and gracefully. In fact, there's a whole lot of sitting too. Talk about efficiency.

Looking back, it's easy to understand why Chicago: The Musical is as popular as it is. The dancing is unrivaled; and the humor is spot on. Sex sells, and Chicago has lots (and lots) of it. "Some guys can't handle their arsenic," but it's clear that this cast can entertain with the best of 'em. I had a great time; and ultimately, that's all you can ask for. Chicago: The Musical continues at the National Theatre through February 15. Click here to purchase tickets: I highly recommend it.

Grade: B+