All that Fosse. And yes it can be said here, All that Jazz has finally come to the Music Circus. The deconstructed but still fully entertaining 1996 revival of the Bob Fosse, John Kander and Fred Ebb musical Chicago almost nonchalantly sizzles as its sexy cast struts across the circular stage. From the first entrance of Aaron Felskes bare-armed announcer there were hoots and wolf whistles from the crowd, and that could have gone on forever as the cast supplied beefcake and cheesecake all night long.
That type of purient sexuality would eventually become part of the productions furniture (if the bare set actually had any beyond a few chairs) because the seductive boudoir-based costumes never change. The women in black bras, garter belts and stockings dont ever cover up. The men in black trousers and open black vests never change, either. Still, to focus solely on the Fosse-centric celebration of the flesh would miss the point. The greatness of this revival remains how it distills the spectacular original 1975 production and somehow, less really does become more.
Based on a 1926 play called Chicago by Maurine Dallas Watkins, a journalist turned playwright and screenwriter who covered the real-life sensational murder trials that form the basis of the fictional story, Fosse seized on the satirical possibilities. Watkins reporting and play focused on two accused women who claimed to be corrupted by men and the breathless coverage their stories in Chicagos seven daily papers of the time. Fosse turned it all into a cynical, winking homage to vaudeville and show business.
Here, knowing director Ron Kellum clearly understands his outstanding assets in Broadway Chicago veterans Brenda Braxton as accused murderess Velma Kelly, Tom Hewitt as the lawyer Billy Flynn, and Roz Ryan as Matron Mama Morton. The coolly alluring Braxton turns up the heat instantly with the sultry opening All That Jazz and the longish first act that follows seems almost too front-loaded with signature production numbers. Lindsay Roginski, who shimmers as Roxie Hart, the accused murderess competing for headlines with Velma, matchesBraxton with an equally seductive Funny Honey. Braxton and Roginski are each accomplished dancers as well as strong vocalists, and they need it all in the extravagant production numbers centered on them. Velma and the cellblock girls ask for our sympathy in the Cell Block Tango, giving their side of their violent deeds, It was murder, but it wasnt a crime.
Ryan confidently belts When Youre Good to Mama while the beautifully voiced Hewitt has superb turns on All I Care About and the comic masterpiece We Both Reached For the Gun. Ric Stonebacks Amos Hart takes on the somber Bert Williams tribute Mr. Cellophane and Hewitt nearly stops the show with Razzle Dazzle. The ensembles fabulous Fosse-inspired dancing was finely choreographed by Randy Slovacek.
Its hard to believe the Music Circus has never staged Chicago before, but this top-shelf, extended-run production makes up for much of that omission.
Call The Bees Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder