Chicago at Hennepin Theatre Trust
Hennepin Theatre Trust is close to finishing their 2017-2018 season with their second to last production coming around to Minneapolis for the week. Chicago is a classic. I've always been a huge fan of this production, this being the second time seeing and not to mention the movie, which I've had to buy two copies because I watched it so much. It's dark, gritty and satirical. You find yourself rooting for the two leading ladies despite their dark pasts. It's conflicting but honestly you don't care because of the remarkable songs and dances.
The musical originally opened in 1975 starring the incomparable, Chita Rivera as Velma Kelly. It was later revived in 1996 starring Bebe Nuewirth as Velma and now holds the record as the longest-running musical revival and longest-running American musical in Broadway history. The revival won numerous Tony awards including Best Revival of a musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actress and Actor. In 2002 it spawned a critically acclaimed movie winning six Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones (who also starred as Velma Kelly).
Chicago is the musical based off of a 1926 play of the same name by Maurine Dallas Watkins. It features a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse along with lyrics and music by Ebb and John Kander. The original was choreographed by Bob Fosse, one of the greatest chroeogphers dance has ever seen. The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice along with the concept of a "celebrity criminal." It focuses primarily on two rival vaudevillian murderesses who are locked up in the Cook County Jail. Roxie Hart has been accused of murder after she killed the man she had been having an affair with. Velma Kelly uses her wits, along with the help of prison matron Mama Morton and her silver-tongued lawyer Billy Flynn, she creates a media frenzy for herself. However in a city that has a 24-hour news cycle, there is always another story to be told right around the corner as Roxie has some tricks up her sleeve as well.
The beautiful thing about Chicago is that it's nothing more than pure entertainment. It doesn't focus on an overbearing set or theater technical magic to trick the naked eye. It's an intricate story with catchy music and amazing choreography. It's classic and timeless. That is purely one of my favorite things about this show. It's almost even more pressure on the performers because all eyes are on them the whole time. Through smooth transitions and high technical precision, the whole cast brilliantly performs Ann Reinking's choreography, in the style of Bob Fosse. Fosse is known for his sideways shuffling, rolled shoulders, jazz hands and intricate use of props including canes, hats and chairs...which certainly come through in this production's choreography.
New York sent their best with this production of Chicago. Dylis Crowman plays Roxie Hart and is so electrifyingly charming. Her "Roxie" voice left an air of comedy to her while her seductive dancing kept in her check with the theme of the show. She was mesmerizing to watch. Terra C. MaCleod plays Velma Kelly and also has that perfect balance of venom and sass with comedy. Jennifer Fouche plays the mistress of the clink, Matron "Mama" Morton who had such a beautiful and controlled set of runs during "When You're Good To Mama" that I almost stood up mid song! Jeff McCarthy plays the ring master of the court, Billy Flynn. Personally I wasn't blown away. Even after his belt of a note at the end of "All You Need is Love," I still felt a bit of lackluster during "Razzle Dazzle." His acting was fine but overall I wasn't impressed. Paul Vogt plays Roxie's husband and was charmingly adorable during his scenes and song "Mr. Cellophane."
There is a lot I love about Chicago. When I first saw the production, I was in high school and didn't understand or appreciate some of the better things about it. After studying it for four years in college, I can really apprecaite the ensemble of this show. First off, they often play multiple characters from the jury to the reporters and the mistresses of one of the most iconic musical theatre songs ever, "Cell Block Tango." They are a fabulous ensemble and really heighten the show.
Honestly it's just a joy of a night when you're seeing Chicago. It's timeless but still feels relevant and modern. I adore this show and it's running track record proves that countless of others do too. I immediately rushed home to watch the movie before I fell asleep and the next day at work I listened to the soundtrack all day...as did my boss who was my date for the night!
Chicago plays at the Orpheum theatre (apart of Hennepin Theatre Trust) through June 10th. As most HTT shows, it is a limited run so don't wait on purchasing your tickets! You're guaranteed for an explosive night of sex, dance, and dynamic music. Click the button below to purchase tickets along with the other to see HTT's new season including hits like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hanson.