Long Live the King- Disney's Lion King That Is
BY: Lynn Marie
It's been a few years since I last saw this Broadway show, but what a thrill it was to see it again in Dallas at the magnificent Winspear Opera House.
For those of you who do not know the story here is the readers digest version: In the mid 1920's in Chicago, IL, Velma Kelly is a vaudevillian who murdered both her husband and her sister when she found them in bed together. She welcomes the audience to tonight's show ("All That Jazz").
Meanwhile, we hear of chorus girl Roxie Hart's murder of her lover, nightclub regular Fred Casely. Roxie convinces her husband Amos that the victim was a burglar, and Amos cheerfully takes the blame.
Roxie expresses her appreciation of her husband's thick skull ("Funny Honey") However, when the police mention the deceases name Amos belatedly puts two and two together. The truth comes out, and Roxie is arrested. She is sent to the women's block in Cook County Jail, inhabited by Velma and other murderesses ("Cell Block Tango").
The block is presided over by the corrupt Matron "Mama" Morton, (played by Kecia Lewis-Evans) whose system of mutual aid ("When You're Good to Mama") perfectly suits her clientele.
She has helped Velma become the media's top murder-of-the-week and is acting as a booking agent for Velma's big return to vaudeville.
Velma is not happy to see Roxie, who is stealing not only her limelight but also her lawyer, Billy Flynn. (played by John O'Hurley) Roxie tries to convince Amos to pay for Billy Flynn to be her lawyer ("A Tap Dance"). Eagerly awaited by his all-girl clientele, Billy sings his anthem complete with a chorus of fan dancers ("All I Care About").
Billy takes Roxie's' case and re-arranges the story for consumption by sympathetic tabloid columnist Mary Sunshine ("A Little Bit of Good"). Roxie's press conference turns into a ventriloquist act with Billy dictating a new version of the truth ("We Both Reached for the Gun") to the press while Roxie mouths the words. Roxie becomes the new toast of Chicago and she proclaims so boastfully while planning for her future career in vaudeville ("Roxie").
As Roxie's fame grows, Velma's notoriety is left in the dust and in an act of pure desperation, she tries to talk to Roxie into recreating the sister act ("I Can't Do It Alone"), but Roxie turns her down, only to find her own headlines replaced by the latest sordid crime of passion.
Separately, Roxie and Velma realizes there's no one they can count on but themselves ("My Own Best Friend"), and the ever-resourceful Roxie decides that being pregnant in prison would put her back on the map.
Velma again welcomes the audience of Roxie's Continual run of luck ("I Know a Girl") despite Roxie's obvious falsehoods ("Me and My Baby").
Amos, not the brightest crayon in the box, proudly claims paternity, and still nobody notices him (Mister Cellophane"). Velma tries to show Billy all the tricks she's got planned for her trial ("When Velma Takes The Stand"). With her ego growing, Roxie has a heated argument with Billy, and fires him.
She is brought back down to earth when she learns that a fellow inmate has been executed. The trial date arrives, and Billy clams her, telling her if she makes a show of it, she'll be fine ("Razzle Dazzle"), but when he passes all Velma's ideas on to Roxie, she uses each one, down to the rhinestone shoe buckles, to the dismay of Mama and Velma ("Class").
As promised, Billy gets Roxie her acquittal but, just as the verdict is given, some even more sensational crime pulls the pack of press bloodhounds away, and Roxie's fifteen (15) minutes of fame is over. Billy leaves, done with the case. Amos stays with her, glad for his wife, but she then confesses that there isn't really a baby, making Amos finally leave her. Left in the dust, Roxie pulls herself up from her boot straps she teams up with Velma in a new act, in which they dance and perform ("Hot Honey Rag").
Roxie Hart (Tracy Shayne) and Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLEOD) danced in solos and duets, legs straight in the air, swiveling hips, provocative poses and songs, in a truly dynamic Modern Jazz style. John O'Hurley (Billy Flynn) nailed this role with not only his singing and dancing but his demeanor needed for a role such as this.
The award-winning actor is best known as "J. Peterman" on "Seinfeld." which is now the #1 syndicated series in the world in 85 countries, and he has danced his way into the hearts of America as the ultimate champion of the highly rated ABC Show "Dancing with the Stars."
I felt Terra C MacLEOD (Velma Kelly) had a powerful voice that is expected from this role and truly outsang Roxie in many of the numbers. MacLEOD has played Velma in several productions over the years.
Chicago: The Musical puts on a fabulous show without being too showy, a little over the top maybe? It's just a group of incredibly fit singers/dancers/actors decked out in black. 'There are no complicated sets and no crazy costumes.
The original Broadway production opened June 3, 1975, at the 46th Street Theater and ran for 936 performances. Bob Fosse choreographed the original production, and his style is strongly identified with the show.
Chicago's 1996 Broadway revival holds the record for the longest-running musical revival on Broadway and is its fourth longest-running show. The Academy Award-winning film version (2002) of the musical was directed by Rob Marshall and starred Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly, and Queen Latifah.
Chicago: The Musical is part of the Lexus Broadway Series at The AT&T Performing Arts Center and runs through Sunday, August 26th. For more information visit www.attpac.org or call 214.880.0202.
Promotional consideration was made in to this writer for reviewing the performance.
Photos by Joan Marcus. Top: He Lives In You with Dashaun Young. Bottom: Brown Lindiwe Mkhize.