Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera’s new production of Chicago offers an entertaining evening of song and dance depicting murder, greed and corruption in 1920s Chicago.
Chicago, with a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse and songs by Ebb and John Kander, centers on two showgirl murderesses. Both the celebrated Velma Kelly and rising star Roxie Hart attempt to sway press coverage to focus on their respective murder cases with the help of Matron “Mama” Morton and slick lawyer Billy Flynn. Roxie leaves her husband, Amos Hart, out in the cold.
After director Walter Bobbie’s 1996 revival, starring Ann Reinking as Roxie, thrilled audiences and critics alike, Chicago became the longest-running musical revival on Broadway, and the second-longest-running Broadway show of all time.
Similar to how the “razzle-dazzle” in the prison, courtroom and press scenes moves the cynical plotline forward, in this CLO production, it’s the razzle-dazzle of Reinking’s now-standard choreography that kept the audience at the Benedum Center entertained. The footwork in numbers such as “Cell Block Tango” and “Razzle Dazzle” shined.
Terra C. MacLeod plays Velma Kelly, with Dylis Croman as Roxie, Roz Ryan as Mama, John O’Hurley (best known as Seinfeld’s J. Peterman) as Flynn, and Jacob Keith Watson as Amos.
While it’s typical for the performers playing Velma and Roxie to own the stage, MacLeod and Croman were oddly lackluster, even fading into the crowd during group sequences. On the other hand, Croman and O’Hurley were worthy rivals on stage. O’Hurley, in particular, was a natural Billy Flynn; his effortless delivery of “All I Care About” and “Razzle Dazzle” stood out. Ryan’s stunning performance of “When You’re Good to Mama” left the audience swooning. Oddly enough, Watson’s melodic and booming voice was offered up only momentarily in “Mr. Cellophane.”
Overall, though, this rendition of “Chicago” razzled and dazzled through the choreography.