The smoke did not keep the crowds away this Friday as Broadway San Jose kicked off a limited run engagement of CHICAGO, the musical. CHICAGO is the longest running musical revival in Broadway history, and for good reason. As Velma Kelly (played by Broadway veteran Terra C. MacLeod) tells the audience, CHICAGO is a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery – all those things we all hold near and dear to our hearts.
Set in 1920’s Jazz era Chicago, the story follows the tale of two murderous vaudevillian performers, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, locked up in Cook County Jail awaiting trial for murder. Both women enlist the help of prison boss Mama Morton and flashy lawyer Billy Flynn (Peter Lockyer) to help get acquitted. Along the way, the women feud not only for the hearts of potential jurors, but also for the potential fame that awaits them once released.
While the story centered on Roxy and Velma, it was the performances of two background players that stood out above all others. Matron “Mama” Morton, played by Jennifer Fouche belted out one of the most entertaining versions of “When Mama’s Good to You” that I have ever seen. The audience showed great restraint in not standing for an ovation in the middle of the first act. Paul Vogt was equally impressive as Amos, the gullible, sad sack husband of Roxy. Upon the realization that he is just a pawn in her fame game, Amos belts out one of the shows iconic performances of “Cellophane”. Vogt has been playing Amos for years and his performance has only gotten better with time.
In addition to the story line, and strong performances, the elements that have made CHICAGO so successful over the years are the sexy, well-choreographed ensemble dance numbers and the gritty, yet dazzling staging. This version of CHICAGO is a little hit and miss on some of the key elements, particularly the set and staging, but is able to get by with a little razzle dazzle and knock out ensemble dance routines. The choreography is true to Fosse’s provocative style and executed wonderfully. For me, the dancing carried the show.
The San Jose engagement of CHICAGO is presented by Broadway San Jose and is playing a very limited engagement now through November 18th. Tickets are available at www.broadwaysanjose.com or at the box office located at the Center for Performing Arts (255 Almaden Blvd.) or by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787).