Chicago Book by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb
Music by John Kander
Lyric by Fred Ebb
Directed by Steve MacKinnon
Choreography by Denise Ahlert
Starring Danielle Lang, Michelle Elise, Priscilla Bagley, and Joel Warren
Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL
THIS is why I show up at the theatre every weekend. Steve MacKinnon and his stellar cast put all their energy, timing and skill on stage and pull of a show that would make Mr. Fosse proud. From the opening rag to the final jazz hands, this trip to the wild Midwest never relents – the songs resound, the dancers hit their marks and the sin never stops.
Halfway thought the Jazz Age bimbo Roxy Hart (Elise) shoots her lover Fred Caseley (Steven Pugh.) Hubby Amos (Eddy Coppens) might take the fall, but Caseley sold them their furniture and that sort of makes a difference to a simple guy like him. In jail, Roxy meets her press idol Velma Kelly (Lang) and her manager Mamma Morton (Bagley). While hanging is an option, so is the Orpheum circuit if Roxy and Amos can raise $5k to hire Billy Flynn (Warren). Flynn has a perfect record, none of his female clients have swung, and many have gone on to play in Peoria. Five grand is a few years’ wages for a guy like Amos, but he pulls part of it together and the real fun begins when Flynn manipulates the press and Sister Mary Sunshine (Joshua Eads-Brown) into painting gold digging Roxy as a misunderstood Mother Theresa. Yes, it like Fox News, but with much better choreography.
Let’s start with the dancing – there’s quite crowd on stage, and beyond not tripping over each other Denise Ahlert gave us the tightest lines I’ve seen on stage – NO one was off beat. Bits of Busby Berkley appear, and master of Ceremonies Santio Cupon could well have been animated by Tex Avery. Behind the arras Don Hopkinson made a last minute substitution for the piano player, and gave us a soundtrack quality musical experience. The follow spot spends most of its time on lead Danielle Lang; she seemed world wearily but not ready to give up her dancing shoes – you need good footwear to steal a show this big. We found her moral opposite in Eddy Coppens as Amos Hart – he was the only principle to not have his own exit music, but broke your heart with “Mr. Cellophane.” Pick names at random, everyone had a starring moment: Joel Warren with Flynn’s “Razzle Dazzle,” Roxie and her opener “And All That Jazz,” Mama Morton’s smoky “When You’re Good to Mama.” You know the hits here – pick your poison.
OK, there’s sex, jazz, miscarriage of justice, and hot-cha dancers. For all I know, Sloth is lurking as well but I’m just as happy if they replace it with a few of the other six. Time here is well spent – every song might chart, every dance inflames, and the tale of Roxy selling out that last bit of soul that was caught in her molars is the sort of morality play that’s aims to entertain, not reform. Roll down your socks and rouge your knees – it’s Friday night, and I know a place with a hot piano.
For more information on Theatre Downtown, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net