On Theater: 'Chicago' is well worth the visit

Whatever happened to class? Well, it's spread all over the stage at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, where the hit musical "Chicago" is setting playgoers' hands and feet tapping once again.

Headlined by John O'Hurley as the flashy defense lawyer who succeeds with style (and scam) over substance, this "Chicago" revels in the sizzling, highly individualized choreography of the late Bob Fosse, here recreated by Ann Reinking in the master's dazzling style.

This touring production also presents a pair of superlative actresses in the roles of the main murderesses — that is, once you accept a blonde Velma Kelly and a brunette Roxie Hart, which doesn't take long. Terra C. MacLeod as Velma is a true Fosse actress, igniting her dancing moves with vim and vigor.

Paige Davis as the show's central figure, Roxie, probably is the finest actress to play the role, at least in this vicinity. Davis has both the electric moves and the more subtle facial reactions to sell this character, who begins in a naive panic but wises up in a hurry once she joins the "Merry Murderesses."

Their matron, beautifully rendered by Carol Woods, doesn't have much opportunity to stretch her powerful vocal cords, but her acting talents are superior. When she works up to her "When You're Good to Mama" solo in the first act, she makes the rafters ring.

O'Hurley has been by this way before ("Spamalot"), and he's known for TV shows such as "Family Feud" and "Seinfeld." Here he's the prestigious criminal defense attorney who'll get anyone off death row for a mere $5,000, no questions asked. O'Hurley's velvet voice, in singing and acting assignments, registers with depth and resonance.

The woebegone Amos, milksop husband of the robust Roxie, is etched flawlessly by Ron Orbach, who created this role on the show's first national tour in 1997. Playing a character whom "nobody notices," Orbach earns sustained applause for his gloom-filled rendition of "Mister Cellophane."

The gushy sob sister journalist covering the trial is played by a performer billed as C. Newcomer — and it's not long before you realize the "C" doesn't stand for Carol or Cindy. Naomi Kakuk touches our senses as the Eastern European prisoner whose only dialogue consists of the words "not guilty." Shamicka Benn-Moser tears up the stage in a juiced-up cameo as a character billed as Go-to-Hell Kitty.

The real stars of "Chicago," however, are the music and the choreography. When Fosse — the original director and choreographer — wrote the show with lyricist Fred Ebb, the orchestra was placed center stage on a raked platform, where it remains today. Timing and emphasis play crucial roles in such numbers as "Cell Block Tango" and "We Both Reached for the Gun," and musical conductor Jesse Kissel assumes a brief but entertaining role in the cast.

Whatever happened to "Class"? That's what movie fans were wondering when they saw the Oscar-winning flick. But the brutally comical duet between MacLeod and Woods is there as it should be, and should have been on screen. It's the lowest-key number in the show and one of the most memorable.

"Chicago" has been all over the world since its first touring company was formed in 1997, and it'll be at the Segerstrom Center for just a few more days. If you haven't seen it yet, don't miss this chance at experiencing musical greatness.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "Chicago"

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: Closing performances at 7:30 p.m. through Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Tickets start at $29

Information: (714) 556-2787 or http://www.scfta.org

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World