Chicago Arrives at the Arsht, and Brings a Mediocre "Mama"
Since Chicago, the 2002 flick about murderous, fame-seeking vixens and starring Renee Zellwegger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere debuted, fans of the original musical were joined by legions of new-age cohorts. Being one of the newbies myself, I was sure that the Adrienne Arsht Center's version would only restore the passion I'd let wander since the soundtrack had somehow been removed from a state of constant rotation on my iPod. Still, I entered the theater with average expectations knowing that one never knows what to expect with live off-Broadway performances of classics. As soon as the first few chords of "All That Jazz" were played I knew that I would be enchanted by the production and the countless jaunty twists it threw my way.
The ensemble cast was electrifying, wearing the hell out of the 1920s era wardrobe, belting out tunes of murder and deception (my favorite "Cell Block Tango..."He had it coming!") and executing hot-to-trot dance moves with strength and precision. The one weak link in the production was Sofia Vergara as Matron Mama Morton - featured performer and supposed "draw" for the whole evening. Her stage presence left something to be desired; she sang the opening number way flat, and what was up with the prom updo and hotel front desk agent suit? It's understood that stage productions needs a big name to draw crowds to the show, but I'd prefer big talent to a big name who's presence is simply pandering to the minority that need a name they know to draw them to a cultural event.
Save Sofia, the rest of the cast gave the crowd theatre. Terra
C. MacLeod rocked as desperate-for-attention Velma Kelly, Ron Orbach as
the cuckolded and oft-overlooked husband Andy (or was that Amos?) was
endearing, and Brent Barrett as spotlight-hogging lawyer Billy Flynn
had the looks and voice to make a straight-edge go crooked. But the
show-stealer was Bryn Dowling as murderess, Roxie Hart. Dowling brought
the appropriate charm, panache and seduction to the role and had you
cheering for her in even her most navel-gazing moments. Song, dance and
comedy - the show hit the mark and thankfully left the "stars" to
twinkle on their own for very fleeting moments while the true stars
commanded scene after scene. You know who you are.
The show runs until this Sunday.
-- Raina McLeod & Arisce Wanzer
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