Review by Danny Gaisin
When this scribe learned that Marcia Kash would be directing the Theatre Sheridan version of the Ebb/Fosse/Kander musical I had ‘Great Expectations’! Her ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ led this blog’s 2009 TOP TEN list. This Chicago is semi-blustery…not the ‘Windy City’. Ms. Kash is meticulous. The comic pauses almost perfect; and her blocking targets are certainly focused. But this is Directing 101; there is no attempt to present the essence of either the city or the period. But, overall, the trip is worthwhile (especially if it’s on a Hotwire® excursion rate).
The plot deals with some murder trials circa 1927 the era of the 18th amendment and the Volstead act. It was originally written to satirize American Judiciary and especially the glorification of some of the celebrity prosecutions. The two cases this story dissects are those of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, both charged with murder and it’s no who dunnit – we know they both DID!
Jade Repeta is the Roxie character. She’s a sleaze who blew away her lover. Repeta is a talented dancer; credible actor, and possesses a fine voice. She and her portrayal would own CHICAGO were it not for Emma Pederson who is a quadruple threat… terrific dancer, superlative actor, sings up a storm, and owns that ethereal attribute called ‘star quality’. Mark down her name for future reference (last time I wrote something like this, the Sheridan grad went on to lead in Stratford’s 42nd Street [Jennifer Shaw] last summer!). As the bottom-feeder (read – lawyer), Charles Douglas does not try to be a Richard Gere doppelganger, but rather; he & Kash put their own imprimatur on the avaricious defence attorney who manipulates to get both our heroines acquitted. He prances, strips, boasts and finagles; but always with a smirk and a grin to his adversaries, clients and especially the audience. Douglas may not be the most charismatic member of the cast, but he does have enough talent and moxie to carry this difficult role.
There is a statuesque, white-tie &-tails M.C. who introduces and bridges the action onstage. Shakura Dickson-Scarlett is impressive, not only in stature but in poise and carriage. She has a model’s movements and deportment down pat. She’s a delight to observe as she helps move the play along. There is some strong cast support from Dana Jean Phoenix as the prison matron; and Calvin Laveck’s diffident ‘Amos’- Roxie’s nebbish husband. His ‘Mr. Cellophane’ number will reverberate with every male who has even a modicum of inferiority complex! The male and female dance chorus members are a super team. They bring the intricate choreography by Ray Hogg to as high a standard as anything I’ve seen on the Sheridan stage.
There are also some notable other non-cast folk whose contribution is substantial. The set and costumes by Ivan Brovic are super-dooper eye-catching, and creatively fascinating. He utilizes the lighting talents of Louise Guinard to emulate Berkeley-style floor-show lighting as well as those flashing marquees that were (and in many cases – still are) endemic to vaudeville and theatre. Finally, there are the on-stage & visible band-members under Steve Thomas. They are intrinsic to this musical presentation. They never overpower, and are faultless from overture to finale.
CHICAGO is a fun show. The eighteen arias are lyrically interesting and some of the pieces have become popular & familiar. This adaptation may not make it to our 2013 Top Ten, but it’s certainly worth visiting. In other words – it may not be the astronomically priced ‘Loop’, but it certainly isn’t the lower-class Bridgeport community either. CHICAGO will be at the Sheridan Theatre until Feb. 24th.Note:- curtain is at 7:30pm