Chicago, A Musical Vaudeville

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Book by Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse.

Music & Lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Directed by William Osetek.

Choreographed by Jane Lanier.

Music Direction by Roberta Duchak.

The Windy City’s Musical Mayhem.

Stop the presses!  You are about to hear a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts.  Heard this one before?  Yes, if you know Chicago (the city and the musical) you probably know the tale by heart.  The 1975 musical by Fred Ebb, John Kander and Bob Fosse is now an annual tradition in the town that loaned its name and legend.  And it is one of those cherished traditions that can be enjoyed repeatedly because it never grows stale.  In a town where gangland massacres, political shysters (redundant?) and celebrity criminals make for big time entertainment, this ribald vaudeville feels as comfy as sugar plums and Christmas Carols.

Flash back now nearly a century ago for a little historical background.  The year was 1924.  Prohibition was the law and illegal booze was the rage.  Chicago’s seamy nightlife provided the perfect backdrop for vice, with Chicago’s print media outlets hungry to lap up the latest salacious and profitable headlines.  You thought “Fake News” was new?  Chicago’s notorious criminal element was not just populated by names like Al Capone, but also Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, the two real “Merry Murderesses” who managed to stretch their fifteen minutes of fame from news print to stage and celluloid.  You may remember them better by their stage names: Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly.

In their latest reincarnation at Drury Lane Theatre in Oabrook, Roxie and Velma have taken the attractive forms of Kelly Felthous and Alena Watters, respectively, and it is a most striking meeting indeed.  Both faces are making their local debuts and bringing sparkle and luster to an old favorite.  Ms. Felthous’ Roxie Hart may not be the brightest bulb in the brain department, but she’s no pushover either.  Give her a piano to perch on and she can sell a tune like nobody’s business, and she can command the stage with or without her backup boy quartet.  Her facial expressions and characterization are superb.  The sinewy Ms. Watters is positively cat-like as she springs into Broadway veteran Jane Lanier’s sultry choreography as if she were born to own the limelight.

These ladies have some fierce competition on the Oakbrook boards, with Chicago’s own diva E. Faye Butler raising the roof as Matron Mama Morton, and the soulful and debonair Guy Lockard slipping effortlessly into the sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn.  Not content to simply turn these considerable talents loose in a reproduction of the long-running Broadway and touring versions, Director William Osetek places his company within a freshly minted vision that surges with creative life.  Every element of the production from Kevin Depinet’s multi-level set to Sully Ratke’s period costumes evokes the spirit of the Roaring Twenties.  Now, whoever says that crime doesn’t pay hasn’t been to “Chicago” or Oakbrook.

Highly Recommended.

Review by Joe Stead.

Jeff Recommended.

“Chicago” plays through June 18, 2017 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace.  Tickets range from $45 to $60 with discounts for student groups and senior citizens.  Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays with matinees on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday.  Dinner and show packages are available.  For tickets call (630) 530-0111 or go to www.ticketmaster.com.  Visit DruryLaneTheatre.com for more information.  Also visit the Theatre in Chicago page.

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