CHICAGOBook by Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
MainStage Irving-Las Colinas
Director – B.J. Cleveland
Music Director – Mark Mullino
Choreographer – Kelly McCain
Stage Manager – Branson White
Set Designer – Dane Tuttle
Costume Designer – Costumes by Dusty
Lighting Designer – Kyle Harris
Sound Designer – Jeff Mizener
Properties Coordinator – Jo Anne Hull
Master Carpenter – Kris Hampton
Mona – Alexandra Cassens
Annie – Jamie Ecklund
Aaron / Reporter – Isaiah Christopher-Lord Harris
Matron “Mama” Morton – Brynne A. Huffman
Billy Flynn – Gregory Hullett
Harry / Juror – Preston Isham
Hunkyak – Beth Lipton
Go To Hell Kitty – Ashley Markgraf
June – Alexis Miles
Velma Kelly – Liz J. Millea
Fred Casely – Jonah Munroe
Sargent Fogarty / Judge – Mark Quach
Amos Hart – Michael P. Rausch
Roxie Hart – Rachel Reininger
Mary Sunshine – H. Sabin
Martin Harrison – Carlos Strudwick
Court Clerk / Reporter – Sammy Swim
Liz – Shannon J. Walsh
Piano – Mark Mullino
Bass – Peggy Honea
Trombone – Eric Andress
Reeds – Allison Suding
Banjo – Tony Prim
Drums – Jay Majernik
Trumpet – Carlos Strudwick
Violin – Beth Lipton
Reviewed Performance: 11/5/2016
Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The storyline for Chicago has been around for several years, originating in the 1920’s and loosely based on true events. It follows the story of Velma Kelly, a vaudeville performer who murdered her husband and Roxie Hart, a young woman who murdered her lover. These two very distinct murderesses are placed in the women’s section of the Cook County Jail where they compete for the attention of the media and for the attention of the lawyer Billy Flynn.
Chicago is the second longest running show on Broadway, following Phantom of the Opera. It has been nominated for several awards, winning 6 Tony Awards from the 1996 Broadway revival. These include Best Revival of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, and Best Choreography.
Director B.J. Cleveland tied the elements together with strong blocking throughout and comedic characters that I thoroughly enjoyed. The show was fun and engaging, making me look forward what was going to happen next. I was focused on the story throughout the whole show because Cleveland kept things moving.
The orchestra under the direction of Music Director Mark Mullino was excellent, blending in nicely with the show without being overbearing. I enjoyed the few interactions that the orchestra members had with the characters, especially during “Mister Cellophane” with Amos when they refuse to play his “exit music”.
All the dancers were exceptional, with strong movements and intricate choreography, as designed by Kelly McCain. I appreciated the strong elements of Charleston that were incorporated throughout. The dancers first caught my attention during the opening sequence of “All That Jazz” with their obvious dance training and they held my attention throughout the performance. A few songs where I felt the dancers excelled were the female dancers in “Cell Block Tango”, with the strong usage of shapes and dynamics in their movements and the full ensemble in “Razzle Dazzle” with the use of the stage and their constant movement which razzle dazzled the audience.
The set was minimalistic, which allowed for a greater focus on the performers. The set as designed by Dane Tuttle allowed plenty of space for the dancers to perform, without distracting too much from the main performance, with a tiered stage where the very talented orchestra sat on both sides, and a staircase down the middle. There was space in the front on both sides of the stage with bar style tables set for performers to be onstage at certain points throughout the performance, without getting in the way of the main action.
Black was the key color used in most of the costumes, as designed by Costumes by Dusty. There was a good amount of fringe, reminiscent of the flapper style of dress that was popular in dance clubs of the 1920’s. Velma’s outfits were more elaborate, always in black which contrasted nicely with Roxie’s red outfits. Though some of the costumes didn’t fit into the period the musical takes place, they deliberately enhanced the sex appeal of each of the performers, fitting in with the raunchy theme.
The lighting as designed by Kyle Harris was effective in illuminating the actors. I appreciated how the lighting was incorporated into the set, changing colors in the background to reflect different aspects of the show, especially during “Razzle Dazzle” which used bright colored lights and fast movement to mimic the razzle dazzle of a performance. The use of the spotlight and other lighting throughout helped to keep attention focused on the key performers.
Though the sound effects were few, Jeff Mizener made them effective, including the gunshots being timed perfectly. The microphones were balanced with the musicians, making it very easy to hear and understand what the cast was singing. There weren’t many sound effects to the show, but the ones used were used very well.
Though the properties were few, they were effective in bringing the show together. Jo Anne Hull made good choices in the props that she selected. Murderesses had buckets and mops for their prison chores. Momma and Velma had beer bottles when they were commiserating, and the murderesses had guns for their scenes. Notepads and writing utensils were readily available whenever the reporters were onstage. These few props added just the right amount of reality to the show without distracting from the story.
Rachel Reininger played the part of Roxie Hart, the young woman who kills her lover Fred when he attempts to leave her. Reininger was a joy to watch onstage, with very strong dynamics in her performance. She has a very good singing voice, especially in “Me And My Baby” and “Nowadays”. I enjoyed her dancing as well, though she seemed to be holding back during her solo “Roxie”. Overall, Reininger had a dynamic presence, gesticulating strongly in ways that fit her character and made here very easy to understand.
Velma Kelly, the sexy former Vaudeville performer with dreams of returning to the stage was played by Liz J. Millea. Millea has an exceptional singing voice, though her dancing seemed to be a bit lacking in some of the numbers. She made up for this in her comedic portrayal during the duet “Class” where she partnered with actress Brynne A. Huffman, who played the part of Matron “Mama” Morton, to show how crass she could be.
The talented lawyer who sings “All I Care About” Billy Flynn is played by Gregory Hullett. Hullet excelled whenever he was onstage, with strong singing, dynamic interactions and a confident manner. This served him well in the part of a very prestigious lawyer. He was exceptional during the songs “We Both Reach For The Gun” and “Razzle Dazzle” creating a strong character that helped carry the show.
Brynne A. Huffman plays the part of Matron “Mama” Morton, the Matron of Cook County Jail. As is very visible in the song “When You’re Good To Mama”, Huffman creates a tough motherly figure that everyone goes to when they need favors. Her outstanding performing skills combined with her crass behavior which was especially notable during the duet “Class”, made her a character to watch out for.
Amos Hart, Roxie’s husband, was played by Michael P. Rausch. Rausch is pitiful and doesn’t stand out much as is very appropriate for his character. He maintained a semi-stooped posture to help blend in with his surroundings, with a mellow and demure voice, making him a very visible pushover. However, when Rausch wants to stand out, he stops the stage with his incredible vocal performance. During his solo “Mister Cellophane” I heard that final high note and wanted to hear more. Rausch’s voice is incredible.
H. Sabin played the part of Mary Sunshine, the newspaper reporter ‘sob-sister’ that interviews and follows Roxie throughout the performance. Sabin excelled during the performance of “A Little Bit Of Good” hitting the high soprano notes with ease while moving quickly throughout the stage.
I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Chicago at MainStage Irving – Las Colinas. They truly gathered an exceptional cast with several very talented dancers and singers. Stop by soon for tickets, as there are only 2 weeks remaining to see this show at MainStage Irving-Las Colinas.
MainStage Irving – Las Colinas
Dupree Theatre, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd. , Irving, Texas 75062
Performances run through November 19th.
Friday Evening Shows: Nov. 4th, 11th and 18th at 7:30PM
Saturday Evening Shows: Nov. 5th, 12th and 19th at 7:30PM
Sunday Matinees: Nov. 6th and 13th at 2:30PM
Thursday Evening Show: Nov. 17th at 7:30PM
TICKET PRICES for Chicago range between $21 and $31. For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.irvingtheatre.org or call the box office at 972-252-2787.