Chicago the Musical January 24, 2009
By Glen Creason and Kathleen Sheehy
The musical “Chicago” hit the boards of Cerritos over the weekend and it is amazing just how topical the piece seems thirty years plus since it caused a sensation on Broadway. Actually, the original play goes way back to 1926 when a Chicago Tribune reporter named Maurine Dallas Watkins penned the story of Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly, two murderesses who managed to escape punishment with the help of a crafty lawyer and then parlay their infamous reputations into show business careers. In this era of celebrity circus trials and lawyers magically gaining acquittals against all odds the farce here does not seem all that far from the truth. This musical was overshadowed by the success of “A Chorus Line” originally but was reborn as a smash in the 90’s with the stress on Bob Fosse’s choreography. At Cerritos, the show literally shimmers with the vibrant and sleek Fosse influence and succeeds thoroughly thanks to the crisp, energetic choreography and tight musical numbers exercised by a very strong cast.
I brought along my dear teenaged “Chicago” aficionado Kathleen who has seen the hit movie repeatedly and knows every move in the show backwards, forwards and mostly sideways. Not only is Kathleen a formidable critic she is a natural redhead, a quality of dubious authenticity in the character of Roxy. Still, despite the rather sketchy ethics of Ms. Hart and the broad stretching of morality by Velma and Billy the lawyer in the show it was agreed that these very same colorful villains made the entire evening most enjoyable. Even if the proceedings are drawn with broad strokes with tongue in cheek there is that kernel of truth that the public loves the drama of celebrities gone wrong. Even young Kathleen has lived through OJ, Robert Blake and Phil Spector but this musical is a lot more fun. While the entire ensemble for this show at the Performing Arts Center was very good four excellent actors in the key roles elevated the performance. Both Roxy and Velma were sensational in dance and song as played by Michelle DeJean and Terra C. MacLeod. These are characters that demand unlimited energy and precise comedic timing involving physical comedy, singing and expert dancing. Both actresses managed to handle every aspect here with gusto. Jeff McCarthy as Billy Flynn was perfect in the role lighting up the stage with his presence and sparkling in the occasional demands for hoofing and singing. D. Micchiche was sensational as the pious Mary Sunshine singing with a coloratura soprano that rang off the top of the upper balcony at Cerritos. Also Ben Elledge was very good as the feckless Amos Hart and Roz Ryan as Mama Morton was dead on for her middle-woman in the shenanigans in the jail. The show revolves around three boffo numbers “All That Jazz,” “Razzle Dazzle” and Class” which were done with great skill but in truth, they were just three of twenty worth whistling on the way out to the car. The entire production thrived with sexy and dance-functional costumes, an interesting but unobtrusive set and lighting that made it all look naughty but nice. Overall, my critic at large, Kathleen gave this Cerritos show two thumbs up except for maybe the authenticity of Roxy's hair color.