Theater Review: CHICAGO
As they say the best things in life come in threes-! For musical theater-goers that equates to 1. High kicking, 2. high-belting, 3. high powered – and “Chicago” -currently being lovingly staged at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, CT indeed has all three!! Add in a trio of outstanding talented leads surrounded by an ensemble of truly gifted young men and women and it all adds up to a simply exciting, must-see musical experience!
On this Yankee Doodle Dandy of a sultry summer Sunday in July, I join an enthusiastic full house of multi-generational theater goers in taking our seats as the on-stage band, situated behind jail house doors, launch into the overture and introduce us to the red-hot Jazz world of Roxie Hart, Velma Kelly, Lawyer Billy Flynn, prohibition-era Chicago, and our ticket on how a “bevy of flappers” may get away with “murder”!
The place- 1920’s Chicago – Death row. Murderess number one- meet ex-chorus girl and current chippy housewife Roxie Hart (Lynn Philistine) who still dreams of fame and being a big star by sleeping her way to the “top” until she murders her nite-club owner boyfriend. Murderess number two- and current media sweetheart, Vaudevillian Velma Kelly (Stacy Harris) she did away with her dancing partner sister and husband when she caught them doing the “bedroom tango”. So what’s the cost of fame and receiving a “get out of jail pass” – prison matron “Mama” Morton might have their key out of the Big House “for a price” by introducing them to “All I Care About is Love” Lawyer Lip Billy Flynn (Christopher Sutton), a grifter who can beat any rap for a mere five large ones – $5,000!!
“Chicago”, based on the 1926 play by crime reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, with its music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and a book by Ebb and Bob Fosse had its original Broadway run starting in 1975 and a Broadway revival in 1996 which holds the record as the longest-running musical revival plus the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. Even in this rendition in Ivoryton, part of the joy of “Chicago” is seeing the Bob Fosse’s original signature choreography style throughout the various dance productions- most notably “And All That Jazz”, “Cell Block Tango” and “Nowadays”.
On the Howard Hummable Index Scale – I have to give the “Chicago” tunes a solid ten! In fact, circa 1975 during that years Tony awards, I recall watching Jerry Orbach doing his rendition of “Razzle Dazzle” that hummable tune has stuck to me like glue even till today. That gluey effect still clings a week later with Lynn Philistines (Roxie) rendition of “Me and My Baby”- perfectly perfect! Not to be missed – Christopher Sutton as Billy Flynn joined on stage by his wife, Lynn Philistine as Roxie doing the press conference ventriloquist rag- “We Both Reached for the Gun”- simply awe-inspiring musical theater- kudos!! Stacey Harris, 4,5,7,8 as “Velma” sets the tone for this entire production with her amazing “Fosse intro shimmy” to “And All That Jazz” while Sheniqua Trotman in the role of “Mama Morton” pours her heart out on stage-her vocals are truly inspired. Special shoutout to Z. Spiegel as Mary Sunshine – what a voice- comedic gold! The ensemble are all future stars in the making so we mention them here: Jose Amor Christensen, Taavon Gamble, Danny McHugh, Nick Raynor, Jason Daniel Roth, Daniela Delahuerta, Sarah Waxman, Lauren Watkins, Carolina Read and Caroline Lellouche and lastly our two Hartt alum Grant Benedict and Miss Sarah Mae Banning- ( btw Hartt’s Senior Artist teacher Johanna Morrison and I are very proud of you both). So? What’s ya waiting for- plan on visiting Ivoryton for this amazing production- Enjoy!!
CHICAGO opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on June 29th and runs through July 24th, 2016. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.
Tickets are $50 for adults; $45 for seniors; $22 for students and $17 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at http://www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. The Ivoryton Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at Howardbatv@aol.com.