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A new tour of Chicago arrives in Raleigh

Adultery, treachery, fishnets, heels and hat

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Tom Wopat, center, a long way from Hazzard County. - PHOTO BY PAUL KOLNIK

Chicago
Broadway Series South @ Memorial Auditorium, Progress Energy Center
Through Dec. 7

As opening lines go, it's a beaut. Let's all say it together, shall we? "Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery—all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts." So when a bubble-headed chorus dancer clad in little more than the requisite fishnets, heels and hat just blurted it out, squandering the first moment of the show, we briefly wondered what lay ahead.

True, most—but not all—of those qualms were laid to rest in the first act that followed. And some rough spots could be understandable for a traveling production still in the first week of a new international tour, as was the case when we caught this show in Charlotte three weeks ago.

Granted, a weak line reading is a quick fix, and an ensemble dance routine or two can be tightened up and smoothed out with relatively little fuss. But a character's interpretation and energy can take somewhat longer to re-engineer. And, despite Fred Ebb's jaded lyrics in that second-act show-stopper, "Razzle Dazzle," dancing and singing abilities variant enough to catch the audience's ear and eye tend to fall into the category of long-term projects. Reasons enough, all in all, to register a couple of caveats along with an endorsement for the big-ticket show in Raleigh this week.

Bianca Marroquín as Roxie Hart - PHOTO BY PAUL KOLNIK

Yes, this professional touring version gets much of its considerable propulsion from a bubbly, dynamic Bianca Marroquín as Roxie Hart, that somewhat well-intentioned jazz slayer with the heart of purest pyrite. Marroquín's kinetic dancing, singing and acting shouldn't just put her in line for theatrical awards; it should qualify her as an alternative energy source. Marroquín seamlessly shifts through her character's variant notes, capturing the vulnerable little girl inside the brassy taxi dancer an instant before just-plain-folks-ing it up with the audience—reason enough, by itself, to put this show on your don't-miss list.

Then add Don York's jubilant, irrepressible stage band, and strong supporting work by an earthy Roz Ryan as Matron "Mama" Morton and Terra MacLeod's Teutonic turn as Velma Kelly, and you've got a show well worth the seeing—despite the comparatively starchy reading of lawyer Billy Flynn by headliner Tom Wopat.

The Tony-nominated and Drama Desk-award-winning actor certainly captured the sternness of the legal ringmaster the afternoon we caught Chicago. His judge-and-jury-swaying charisma and charm? Not so much. Unexceptional dance moves and workmanlike vocals made the topic of his above-mentioned song a little close for comfort. While Flynn intones the lines, "Though you are stiffer than a girder/ They'll let you get away with murder," this rather one-sided interpretation didn't quite make a clean getaway.

A 10-pack of slinky leatherettes clad in William Ivey Long's memorably kinky costumes still seemed less of an ensemble than individual dancers sharing a stage; more sterile than organic in technique—in this of all shows—as they interpreted Ann Reinking's restaging of Bob Fosse's original choreography. That should have been addressed by the time you read this. Though the other caveats raise bigger questions, the correct answer remains: See it.

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