First Impressions: Will Christie Brinkley's performance as Roxie Hart in this touring production of the musical "Chicago" make you forget anyone else who has done the role before her? No. There may be times when you may long for a set of killer pipes or snappier kicks, but the gal is game as well as gorgeous and gives a model performance that has its own underdog charms.
Besides, there's so much other razzle dazzle going on around her, especially the solid performances by dynamo Amra-Faye Wright as Velma Kelly, powerhouse singer Kecia Lewis-Evans as Mama Morton and a vocally robust (who knew?), masterful and smooth John O'Hurley (a Kingsford-Oxford grad) as Billy Flynn. Add the sexy ensemble and the terrific on-stage band and you've got one swell show well worth visiting -- or revisiting.
How many times have you seen the show?: It’s been running on Broadway for 16 years and on the road for so long one can take the show for granted. I thought I had reached my maximum number of visits -- but I was wrong. This is a perfectly constructed show that brings renewal pleasures and makes you admire pure show biz craft.
It’s not that anyone in this touring production made me see the show in a new way but it is just so brilliantly conceived that if it is performed well -- as it is here, every number delivers a wow.
And in-between the numbers?: There’s very little between the numbers. It’s ALL about the numbers. Its presentational structure, its wiseguy attitudes, its dark design all work seamlessly together to tell its story and convey the themes. How it comes together is musical comedy genius, with choreography by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and Fred Ebb at their very best and original staging by Walter Bobbie that streamlined and sharpened the original 1975 production.
What’s it about?: Greed, sex, corruption and America’s insatiable appetite for celebrity. When Roxie Hart shoots her lover for walking out on her, she discovers that her best chance of getting out of jail is to play up her noteriety, sexiness and faux remorse. After all, it’s all show biz and everyone has their part to play on this part vaudeville-circus stage.
And the performances?: Ron Orbach is perfectly suited as Roxie's husband Amos. And D. Micciche delivers on every falsetto note as reporer Mary Sunshine. But wait.
Wait?: I realize that the key ingredient in any successful production is the ensemble, those sensual, slithering, precision-drilled dancers who really sharpen the show’s brilliant blade. So a bowler hat tip to Brent Heuser, Corey Wright, Caitlin Mundth, Melanie Waldron, Andrea Mislan, Nona Ortdman, Celia Merendi, Shamicka Benn, Adam Pellegrine, Phil Groft, Jason Thomas, Corey Wright, Daniel Gutierrez and Lenny Daniel.
Who will like it?: “Chicago” fans.
Who won’t?: “Chicago” purists might have a problem with the guest star but, in a way, the celebrity casting sort of works with the nature of the show: about how anyone can become a celebrity in America with luck, pluck and a willingness to sell one’s soul to a higher power agent. (The ultimate recasting would have one of the Kardashians take over as Roxy Hart -- or maybe all of the Kardashians taking over. Bruce Jenner as Amos? I can see it.)
For the kids?: The show’s cynicism is on the dark side but hip teens could appreciate it -- as well as the musical’s show biz skill which is as good as it gets.
Twitter review in 140 characters or less: Brinkey’s celebrity apprentice stint has its charms but its the show that remains the star.
Thoughts on leaving the parking lot: Every time I see the show there’s another aspect to admire even more deeply. A friend at the show remarked about the stark, simple design of the costumes. They may have the same (non-color) pallet but there’s nothing simple about William Ivey Long’s now iconic costumes that are designed within a milimeter of a performer’s modesty.
The Basics: The show will run through Sunday, Oct. 28. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission. Performances are Friday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $69, not including fees. Information: 860-987-5900 and www.bushnell.org
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