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Chicago gives Seattle the razzle-dazzle
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Chicago gives Seattle the razzle-dazzle

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Chicago
Paramount Theatre
Through March 7


As the song from the show suggests, 'give 'em the ol' razzle-dazzle.' This is just what Chicago delivers. Chicago opened on March 3 at Seattle's Paramount Theatre, and despite playing here several times in the past, the musical once again easily won over the audience.

The storyline is familiar, especially after the hit 2002 movie of the same name. The action takes place in the early '20s in the crime-filled city of Chicago. Roxie Hart (Bianca Marroqúin), involved in an affair, has just been dumped by her boyfriend. She shoots him and tries to convince her schlep of a husband Amos (Tom Ris Farrell) to take the rap for her. He refuses once he realizes the cuckold, and Roxie is taken off to the Cook County Jail. There she becomes one of the "chickies" under Matron "Mama" Morton's rule. Roxie immediately clashes with the local criminal celebrity Ms. Velma Kelly (Brenda Braxton), who has turned "murder into an art" and gathers publicity for her hopeful release and vaudeville routine. Roxie is hopeful of the same fame and aims to win the legal attention of shyster lawyer Billy Flynn (John O'Hurley) to help her get off.

Bianca Marroqúin is wonderful as the coquettish criminal that shoots her boyfriend. She plays the role with enough naiveté and a sharp undertone that allows the audiences to grin at her triumphs and show enough concern to cause wonder if she will succeed in fooling the jury. Marroqúin slinks about the stage with a soft, kittenish appearance to allow just enough of her femme fatale to show. Braxton, as Roxie's antagonist Velma Kelly, does a good job of keeping a competitive edge with Roxie. They battle over who gets more attention from their shared lawyer and the media press circus that follows their notoriety. John O'Hurley breezes on stage as corrupt lawyer Billy Flynn. His debonair attitude and careful tux costuming allows him the edge to "only care about love." O'Hurley demonstrates his gift for subtle humor and soft-spoken dialogue that he has come to be known for on such shows as Seinfeld, or hosting Family Feud. Tom Riis Farrell's performance as the nondescript leftover husband Amos is definitely something to notice. His version of "Mr. Cellophane" was delivered with timid appearance until he belts out the final chords of the song. It's hard not to take notice as his long-held note rings throughout the theater and disappears with an equally powerful quiet whisper.

One of the main stars of the production is the collaborated (posthumous) choreography of Bob Fosse and his disciple, Anne Reinking. Reinking redeveloped the original tight and sensual choreography that Fosse has become synonymous with. Each muscle from the beautifully toned bodies of eye-candy from both sexes tells its own story as the dancers show off their well-trained and disciplined bodies. Skimpy black tights and vests are pretty much the only costumes these dancers use, which allows the audience to not only admire their toned tools, but to appreciate each muscle flex and soft-shoe motion that the dancers put to use.

Chicago originally opened on Broadway in 1975. It had the unfortunate timing to open about the same time as the mega-hit A Chorus Line. Most shows failed in comparison, and Chicago was no exception. Not considered a huge hit - despite the wonderful score by Kander and Ebb (Cabaret) - the show suffered even greater challenges when lead star Gwen Verdon (Fosse's ex-wife) got sick and had to step out of the musical. The show lay dormant for over 20 years before facing a revival (mounted by Reinking) that restaged the show in "concert form" with a new vision and a cast of very toned dancers. The sleek and sexy new design struck a chord with the crowds of the late '90s, and the show became a blockbuster.

Despite the many years the show has been playing on Broadway and touring the country (and the world), Chicago still holds its own. To revisit this classic is to sit down and watch something familiar and enjoyable. The music and lyrics hold up with today's musical theater audiences who seemed to be just as entertained as if they were seeing it for the first time.

Chicago is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Watkins was a reporter who based her play on the actual cases she followed at the time. The original musical was conceived, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse in conjunction with his former wife Gwen Verdon. John Kander and Fred Ebb brought the play to musical life, leaving a legacy of some of the most familiar musicals written for the theater. Since the 1996 revival - which is still running on the Great White Way - and with the assistance of the 2002 movie musical, Chicago has become the longest running revival in Broadway history and has earned its place as #6 on the record for the longest running Broadway show in history.

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