Musical Theatre staging excellent ‘Chicago’
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
A well-danced, sung and acted version of the musical “Chicago” is worth seeing at the Birch North Park Theatre, where it is playing through March 3.
The highly sensual rendition produced by San Diego Musical Theatre is recommended for mature audiences due to subject matter.
The leads — Australia native Emma Radwick in her United States theatrical debut and Broadway veteran Kyra Da Costa — are perfect in their respective roles as accused murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. They are extremely talented singers and dancers who showed at the sold-out opening night last Saturday that they fully grasped the nuances of their characters.
The musical is set in 1929 Chicago. It shines a spotlight on the sensational-story driven, fickle media and how accused criminals could be glamorized. They become celebrities and get away with crimes if presented to the public in a sympathetic way by a slick lawyer who cares about money and prestige instead of justice. Though set in the roaring ‘20s, the show could easily be set in any recent decade, including present-day.
When the show opens, Kelly has all the headlines for killing her husband and sister, who were having an affair. But when the unhappily married Hart kills her lover, the spotlight shifts from Kelly to Hart before either goes to trial and can cash in on their notoriety. While Hart grabs all the headlines for awhile — much to Kelly’s dismay — Hart must devise a new way to stay there since an heiress accused of murder is taking her fame away before her trial begins.
San Diego Musical Theatre’s 19-member cast is well-suited to the physically demanding show with Bob Fosse-inspired choreography. Fosse choreographed the original 1975 Broadway production and in this version choreographer Randy Slovacek and the cast excelled in bringing Fosse’s distinctive moves to the stage. This plus the direction by Ron Kellum and music conducted by Don LeMaster make the show worth seeing.
As for the production’s best moments, they started with the opening, sensual number “All That Jazz” featuring Da Costa and the company. When she was joined a couple of songs later by “the girls” in “Cell Block Tango,” the group hit all the right notes when performing the funny yet dramatic song in which they justified the murders they committed. Other highlights included “Razzle Dazzle” and “Honey Rag.”
As for other notable performances, these included SDMT returnees Robert J. Townsend as the sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn and Ria Carey as prison matron “Mama” Morton. The latter’s rich voice was showcased in her solo “When You’re Good to Mama.” A. Saunders reprises the role of Mary Sunshine that Saunders performed in the 1996 Tony Award-winning revival of “Chicago” on Broadway.
“Chicago” can be seen at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through March 3 in the Birch North Park Theatre, 2891 University Ave. in San Diego.
Tickets are $26 to $56 with discounts for those 16 and younger, 65-plus and groups. To purchase, call 858-560-5740 or go to www.sdmt.org.
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