Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Original production directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse
Based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins
Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Director (Re-creation of original production direction)- David Hyslop
Musical Director-Robert Billig
Choreographer (Re-creation of original production choreography)-David Bushman
Scenic Designer - John Lee Beatty
Lighting Designer-Ken Billington
Sound Designer - Scott Lehrer
Costume Designer - William Ivey Long
CAST (in reviewed performance)
Velma Kelly-Lana Gordon
Roxie Hart-Dylis Croman
Fred Casely-Michal Kolaczkowski
Sergeant Fogarty-Adam Vanek
Amos Hart-Paul Vogt
Hunyak-Celia Mei Rubin
Mona-Sophie Lee Morris
Matron "Mama" Morton-Jennifer Fouche
Billy Flynn-Brent Barrett
Mary Sunshine-D. Ratell
The Doctor-Taylor Collins
Aaron-Colt Adam Weiss
The Judge-Taylor Collins
The Bailiff-Deon Ridley
Martin Harrison-Daniel Gutierrez
Court Clerk-Deon Ridley
The Jury-Matthew Winnegge
Reviewed Performance: 2/16/2018
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Based on the experiences of reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, and the play that she penned in 1925, Chicago has become one of the classics of modern Broadway. Originally premiering in 1975, Chicago centers on the story of "two jazz killers," Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart. The story of Chicago is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the "celebrity criminal". Over the years, Chicago has grown in popularity, and is the second-longest Broadway musical of all time. In 2002, a film adaptation starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, and Richard Gere was released. The film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The 2002 film release brought back the idea of big Broadway musicals to the cinematic screen, introducing new audiences and the theatrical musical for the modern generation.
Director David Hyslop was successfully able to bring the original production direction back to the stage at Bass Hall on Friday evening. Hyslop brought together an ensemble cast which worked well together, and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together scenery, lighting and costumes that enhanced the story being told by these characters that audiences have known since 1975. His overall vision and concept was very impressive. The production was presented in such a professional manner, it really had that "Broadway" feel. The actors and the musicians were so fully charged with energy it really was an electrifying experience at the theater. From the moment the show began, members of the audience were drawn into the Chicago nightspots filled with jazz, liquor and entertainment. Hyslop certainly delivers a stunning, and dazzling spectacle, to the backdrop of a fantastic and impressive bandstand on stage, and with larger than life characters telling their story of murder, mayhem, jazz and corruption of the American legal system.
Set Designer John Lee Beatty successfully transformed the grand proscenium stage into multiple locations with simplicity and ease. It was enjoyable to see so many locations in the story conveyed with candor. Mr. Beatty used things such as a picture frame (framing the proscenium and framing the bandstand), two very tall ladders on stage left and stage right, and chairs to create the allusion of multiple locations. The transitions from location to location were seamless. It was almost as if each act was one large scene. There was never a moment that I was taken out of the moment of the story. I was impressed with Beatty's use of such simplistic items to gain attention ad detail in each location. Often times, the sets can be most overwhelming (especially in a Broadway production), Mr. Beatty's designs were able to compliment a production that focuses greatly on the persona's its characters, their relationships, and the plot behind each character. This was most impressive from a production that is one of the modern classics of the Theatre world.
Lighting was designed by Ken Billington. Billington did a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate for each scene and mood. One element that was absolutely awe-inspiring was seeing the use of color on the stage in such numbers as "Razzle Dazzle." Not only did Mr. Billington "razzle dazzle" audiences with his use of vibrant color, but, he also was able to re-create that hazy jazz club night spot. Each element of the lighting provided an intense dramatic effect, and complimented the purity of such a simple set. It is always most impressive to me when designers are able to work together and focus on each element (scenic, lighting, costumes) as one unit in a production, rather than separate elements that could potentially overshadow the story or the actions of each character. It truly was visually pleasing. Through the performance, Billington's cuing to enhance each scene was spot on. It is most apparent that Billington really devoted a lot of time, effort and talent in the lighting of this production.
Broadway veteran William Ivey Long designed costumes that were not only appropriate to the 1920's, but also collaborated with the scenic and lighting designs creating a fantastic overall dramatic effect. One of the things that Mr. Long brought to the creative table (that was most enjoyable to me) was seeing the members of the ensemble (who each played several characters) wear the same "jazz" cabaret wardrobe throughout the entire production. Each time there was a change in character, or location, wardrobe did not change. It was incredible. As an audience member, I did not feel confused or "cheated" by the consistency of the costumes for these background (yet absolutely integral) ensemble players. I also enjoyed seeing the principal players have some sparkle and dazzle to some of the costumes. There was a huge cast of characters, played by a small ensemble of actors. Overall, costumes were visually appealing.
Dylis Croman was incredibly believable in the role of aspiring performer (and merry murderess) Roxie Hart. Through facial expressions, body language, and an incredible vocal range, Croman convincingly portrayed the role of Roxie with a strong stage presence, and took charge of the stage during each scene. Croman's presence on stage was nearly constant-her enthusiasm and energy on stage was fantastic. Croman never faltered in her delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on.
Velma Kelly was played skillfully by Lana Gordon. Gordon was very convincing through facial expressions, dialogue delivery, and impressive voice. She had some nice moments interacting with Ms. Croman and with Matron "Mama" Morton (played skillfully by Jennifer Fouche). Croman, Gordon and Fouche were a powerful trio, and they commanded the stage nicely, and with great conviction, and talent.
Another standout was Billy Barrett the role of the shyster lawyer, Billy Flynn, who provided the appropriate dose of humor to each scene. Mr. Barrett also wowed audiences with his impressive vocal range, and excellent characterization. Mr. Barrett had some wonderfully humorous moments with Amos (whom he constantly refers to as "Andy" as in 'Amos 'n' Andy) played by Paul Vogt. There was some incredible banter between both parties, and allowed some nice moments on stage between the two men, in a female-commanded show. It was most enjoyable to watch.
By far, the best musical number of the production was "Class," a wonderfully ironic song sung between Matron "Mama" Morton and Velma Kelly commenting on the lack of class possessed in society, while the lyrics mention "pigs and whores," and such topics of passing gas, rape and theft. It was a wonderful moment of irony as two classless characters sing about the "good ol' days" of manners, values and ethics. This is one of my favorite numbers from Chicago, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to see it-especially after being cut from the film for being too "realistic" in a plethora of "fantasy" numbers.
This production of Chicago is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience. From the moment the overture begins, you will be pulled back into the 1920's for a fantastic theatrical experience. The production runs long (three hours), however, it will go by very quickly. Audiences are guaranteed to be impressed with the caliber of the talent in this production, and are guaranteed a fantastic experience at the theatre. Hurry, you have a very limited time to see Chicago at Bass Hall. Then, much like Roxie Hart's fifteen minutes of fame, it will be gone. Don't miss this opportunity to see Chicago at Bass Hall, not only does it provide the theatre-goer with a chance to see a prototypical Broadway show, but, audiences will get the chance to see original choreography and concept by Broadway Legend, Bob Fosse. It doesn't get much better than that. Step back in the 1920's when Prohibition was in effect, and flappers were the rage, and see Chicago at Ball Hall in Fort Worth.
Broadway at the Bass
Bass Performance Hall
4 th and Calhoun Streets
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
Plays through February 18, 2018.
Saturday, February 17 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 18 at 1:30 pm and 6:30 pm
Ticket prices range from $55.00, based on day and seating.
For more information, or to purchase tickets visit http://www.basshall.com, or call the
box office at 817-212- 4280, or toll free at 1-877- 212-4280.