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'Chicago' Simmers and Sizzles

(c) PAUL KOLNIK

Chicago
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa
Through February 2
Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.;
Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.
714.556.2787 :: scfta.org

The scandalous tale of murder, deceit, “fame, fortune and all that jazz” stops by Segerstrom Center for the Arts for one week only - Chicago The Musical’s national tour is stirring it up for a brief stint as it passes through town. The Broadway show known for being hot, hot, hot was more rolling boil than scalding heat, but enjoyable nonetheless.

This show has been around for a while and there are certain expectations - whether you base your notions on the award-winning film starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger, or you caught it on Broadway during its original run in the 1970s or its revival in 1996, or saw it regionally, most of us know the story of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. Set in the roaring twenties of Chicago, it recounts the story of two villainesses, their tribulations and trials and their love affair with the press, set to an infectious Kander and Ebb musical score.

Conceived by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb and produced with music by John Kander, this is one of those shows every music and theater buff should catch. This touring revival piece goes back to its roots, with the Fosse look and feel (minimal sets and lots of sexy black!),  a strong and capable ensemble of dancers and a reputable group of headliners.

Terra MacLeod returns to the role of Velma Kelly in the tour - she has played the part all over the world, from Broadway to France and the West End. A seasoned performer and talented singer and dancer with that Fosse physique, she is the partner-in-crime to Roxie Hart, performed by Paige Davis. Like MacLeod, Davis has performed in Chicago on and off since 1998. I was pleasantly surprised by her performance and acting chops, as, like many of us, my knowledge of her has been as the host of the popular home improvement show, “Trading Spaces.” She plays Roxie with a lot of… moxie and sass, with terrific facial character and comedic timing and the girl can dance! Her performance alone is a good reason to buy a ticket for this production.

Of course, the other headliner is John O’Hurley, whose claim to fame was his recurring role as J. Peterman on the television show, "Seinfeld." You would recognize his voice anywhere (he also voices King Neptune on "Spongebob Squarepants") and at 60, he has some scene-stealing moments, looking dapper and devious - besides having a terrific speaking voice, he is a classically trained singer and brings us a more mature Billy Flynn than Gere’s screen version, and it is delightful to expeience.

Carol Woods is terrific as Mama Morton, most especially during her comedic duet with MacLeod in the song "Class,” while Ron Orbach is sufficiently pathetic as Roxie’s subservient husband, Amos. Orbach portrayed Amos during the first revival tour in 1997, and pulls at our heartstrings with his rendition of “Mr. Cellophane.”

With this seasoned, more mature cast, the professionalism and skill is certainly evident; throughout all recognizable numbers - from “All That Jazz” to “Cell Block Tango” to “Roxie,” but I felt they could have turned up the heat a bit more. Perhaps the room absorbed a lot of it - Segerstrom Center is a big venue to “Razzle Dazzle.” Crowd-pleasing, nonetheless, ovations are always generous here in Orange County and they received a very enthusiastic one during my visit to the center.

Chicago is a classic blockbuster musical, full of Tony award-winning catchy songs, Fosse dance highlights, sexy costumes, and a terrific onstage orchestra led by conductor Jesse Kissel. To add to your night, Segerstrom Center enhances your experience with a lively jazz band in the café, an informative stage and screen display and photo opportunity area, and of course, their signature cocktails. Arrive early and make an evening of it, and should you like, set your thermostat for a hot date night visiting the scandalous windy city.



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