Chicago, The Musical
October 18, 2002
Review by Rachel Rabkin
Chicago, Celebrating 2,500 performances on Broadway, November 17, 2002.
Director: Walter Bobbie
Choreography: Ann Reinking
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Music: John Kander
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Starring: Charlotte d'Amboise, Caroline O'Connor, Billy Zane, Rob Bartlett
I wasn't entirely prepared for the festive and warm atmosphere at the 6th Anniversary performance of the musical, Chicago. But I quickly got in the mood. It was a theater-lover's night with loads of theater supporters in attendance-many of them greeting each other with kisses and hugs. Before the 7 pm curtain, the producers, Barry and Fran Weissler, generously schmoozed among the aisles, saying hello to old friends and colleagues. There was such a feeling of chummy inclusion in the air that I wouldn't have been very surprised if the choreographer herself, Ann Reinking (who later did some of her own schmoozing during intermission), had given me a kiss hello too.
The crowd was primed. Before the first cast member onstage could introduce the evening's tale of sex, lust, murder, adultery, fame..and all that jazz, the crowd was cheering and whistling. And the cast members had a feast off that energy. All the performers seemed to dance and sing like it was their first time out there. Their kicks were high and their voices were strong. They gave it their all, and then some.
Having seen Chicago with Bebe Neuwirth, I thought the leads would be hard to top, but this cast blew me away. Caroline O'Connor played Velma Kelly with such sass and humor, she frequently reminded me of the queen of comic timing, Lucille Ball-a much more graceful and seductive Lucille Ball. As for Charlotte d'Amboise, who played Roxie Hart, I couldn't take my eyes off of her. She seemed to be having so much fun up there and to be performing with such ease that I wondered if she was actually improvising certain bits-for her own amusement as well as ours. In fact, the whole cast performed with such effortlessness and flare, that they all seemed to be adlibbing a bit. For example, during an interlude that showcased the onstage band members, I could've sworn that one dancer was so caught up by the music at that moment that she spontaneously got up out of her chair to dance-or shall I say, slither?-along. Robert, who'd seen the show only two weeks before, assured me that the dancing and dialogue hadn't varied from one performance to the next, but the cast's performance was so believable that I still wonder if he's right.
The rest of the cast was equally engaging and likable, from the schlubby but loveable Amos Hart (played by Rob Bartlett), and the slick and self-important Billy Flynn (played by Billy Zane) to the soulful Mama (played by Roz Ryan) and the emotional drag queen Mary Sunshine (played by R. Bean). Even the audience played its part with exceptional feeling by shouting and whistling throughout the entire evening.
One highlight in the first act was the number in which Billy Flynn helps Roxie Hart win over the press with their version of the murder. The ventriloquist act by the two (with Roxy as the dummy) was so expertly timed and executed, there was no mistaking that for improvisation, and it was a delight.
The show ended with a speech of gratitude from Barry Weissler, and the entire company coming out on stage, including stagehands, lighting technicians, costume designers, and much more. It was truly a deserved celebration.
For more information on the show, go to www.chicagothemusical.com