Wednesday, September 20, 2006

plug for *Chicago*

It runs through Sunday at the Opera ... INB Center, and it's a good show.
The orchestra's in view throughout (locals Gary Edighoffer on sax, Larry Jess on trumpet); there's no scenery to speak of.
All the sexy Fosse choreography. Still amazing to me how this show gets you to identify so thoroughly with murderers. Sure, it's in a comic mode, but the fact that the audience goes awwww when poor Amos Hart (Roxie's doofus hubbie) asks pardon for taking up so much of our time -- we sympathize with people who can't get noticed, can't get in the spotlight, more than we tend to criticize people who will do anything to get on the front page.
But you know, as good as Ron Orbach is in this show and John C. Reilly was in the movie, the Amos Hart that I remember is Frank Jewett's at CdA Summer Theatre a couple of years back: impossibly leaning, impossibly high notes, schlumping about like an inconspicuous Cellophane Man. Remarkable.
A couple of old pros in the two central roles: Terra C. MacLeod as Velma and Michelle DeJean as Roxie. More onstage than at the cinema, you feel how they have to carry this show.
Carol Woods belts it as Mama Morton in "When You're Good to Mama."
I gotta say, the women in the chorus were eye candy (I enjoyed my leering from Row J), but the men were the really impressive dancers: limber, timing more precise, brought more characterization to their individual "characters." That said, I still think "Cell Block Tango" is one of the great musical numbers: sexy, outrageous, predictable enough in its repetition that viewers can get the hang of it and wonder what the punch line (i.e., murder method) will be with this next chick, but also rhythmic and fun.
There's more of a sense of theatricality (duh) in the theater, as opposed to the movie. The movie script finally got written because they figured out how to film the vaudeville sequences (as Roxie's imagings). But the theater doesn't have those hurdles. What seemed outrageous in 1975 seems less so now - still, there's something instructive in seeing that jury-rigging, coached witnesses, trying cases in the press, the public's desire for sensationalism over substance -- we haven't changed since the '20s.
The lack of scenery, of course, forces concentration on the singing and dancing and acting. You might think that would seem like a cheat in a big house, but it didn't feel that way, and I didn't overhear or sense any feeling that this ought to be a fully produced, lavish show with big, showy sets. Keeps it psychological and indeed moral. Why DO we care more about Suri and Lindsay's partying and Paris' drinking than we do about Iraq or Iran or global warming?


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