Murder, mayhem and great music in Riverside Theatre’s Chicago

REVIEW

MILT THOMAS

chicago-riverside-7There are those people who love musicals and those who despise them. People love musicals because they use song and dance to advance a story; people who don’t like musicals consider breaking out in song and dance an impediment to a story.

So listen up if you are in the former group – Chicago, currently playing to packed houses at Riverside Theatre is a must-see event! If you see any musical, even if you have seen every version of this one, you know why Chicago is probably the most successful show in modern musical history. Well, not probably. Chicago IS the longest running American musical in Broadway history (20 years and still running), winner of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy. It spawned a movie version that won six Academy Awards in 2003 including Best Picture (first musical to win in 35 years), and another movie, All That Jazz, about original Chicago choreographer Bob Fosse, that won the Palme d’Or at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival.

As far as the latter group is concerned, those who might otherwise shun musicals, it’s safe to say that all this success had to pull in plenty of people like you, so why not give it a shot? Truly, you need to see this production!

For anyone who has lived a monastic life and are not familiar with the plot, Chicago is set in 1920s Chicago, Illinois and concerns an aspiring chorus girl, Roxie Hart (played by Kaitlyn Davidson), who is convicted of murdering her lover and is sent to death row where she meets Velma Kelly (Heather Parcells), another murderess and show biz wannabe. They are both represented by a shady lawyer, Billy Flynn (played by Kevin Pariseau), who sees their sensational crimes and resulting publicity as a sure path to stardom and freedom. (Remember, this is 1920s Chicago, the wild west of moral turpitude.)

Amos Hart (Dane Agostinis) is Roxie’s long suffering, faithful, but hapless husband who becomes the last person in the packed theatre to realize she is guilty as charged. Roxie and Velma are convicted, but then perform to adoring crowds and ultimately win their freedom. Hey, it’s a musical.

Chicago is based on actual trials that took place in 1924 Chicago. The Chicago Tribune reporter who covered them was Maurine Dallas Watkins, who is represented in the musical by the character, Mary Sunshine, and ‘she’ is a real character, played for laughs by Geoffrey Kidwell.

Reporter Watkins wrote a play about the trials that made it to Broadway in 1926. Cecil B. DeMille produced a silent film based on the play in 1927 and Ginger Rogers starred in a 1942 adaptation. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that Bob Fosse became involved and Chicago with a musical score by John Kander and Fred Ebb opened on Broadway in 1975.

Needless to say, all this murder, greed, violence, exploitation and treachery is fodder for great music and plenty of laughs. Did I really just say that?

We are so privileged to have Broadway quality performers, set designs, excellent staging and lighting as well as exemplary musicianship led by musical director, Anne Shuttlesworth. Kudos to Producing Artistic Director/CEO Allen D. Cornell and Managing Director/COO Jon R. Moses.

All that being said, Chicago on the Stark Stage at the Riverside Theatre has been so popular the show extended its run through January 22. Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 772-231-6990 or online at www.riversidetheatre.com.

Don’t miss it!

 

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