September 14, 2018
Starlight Theater – Kansas City, Missouri
When the Kander and Ebb musical “Chicago” opened on Broadway in 1975, it caused a sensation. The show, directed and choreographed by the great Bob Fosse, played for three years and earned an impressive (11) Tony Award nominations. Sadly, it didn’t win any, running into the juggernaut that was “A Chorus Line.”
In 1996, the show was revived on Broadway and that version fared much better at the Tonys, taking home (6) of the (8) awards it was nominated for, including the award for Best Revival of a Musical. What’s even more impressive is that, since November 14, 1996, “Chicago” has never left Broadway, earning the right to call itself the longest running American musical in theater history! This weekend, the touring production made its way to Kansas City and, despite some technical difficulties, greatly entertained.
We meet Velma Kelly (Amra-Faye Wright) as she entertains her nightclub audience with the show’s signature number, “All That Jazz.” We follow this with a quick peek into the bedroom of Roxie Hart (Angel Reda) to discover her in an argument with her lover. Moments later, Roxie shoots him dead. When the police arrive, Roxie’s husband, Amos (Paul Vogt) takes the blame for the shooting, but quickly recants when he learns the truth. Roxie is taken to jail, where she will await trial for murder. But not before a little singing and a lot of dancing!
There are a million reasons to see this show at Starlight. First off, it’s one of the best outdoor venues in the country. The shows are usually excellent or, if not, entertaining. “Chicago” boasts an amazing cast and a top-notch orchestra. Both Ms. Wright and Ms. Reda (who is from nearby Overland Park, Kansas) are strong dancers with great vocal chops. My quibble above regarding technical difficulties comes from the fact that, for the first hour of the show, there was an obvious problem with Ms. Wright’s body microphone. The fact that I could hear her in my seats stems from the fact that she can belt out a song. Once the problem was fixed both actresses were at the top of their game.
The rest of the cast is equally strong. As publicity loving attorney Billy Flynn, Peter Lockyer is as smooth as silk. Jennifer Fouche’ steals her scenes as Matron “Mother” Morton and Mr. Vogt puts an ache in your heart as he sings “Mr. Cellophane.” The choreography (by the amazing Ann Reinking, and based on Fosse’s original work) is spectacular, delivering in spades the moves that are so associated with the late choreographer.
If you’re looking for some fun under the stars this weekend, I’d highly recommend a trip to “Chicago!”