Theatre Review

TBTS’s ‘Chicago’ a sexy, jazzy musical

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Theatre by the Sea wraps up its 85th season with a sexy, jazzy version of the Tony Award-winning musical, “Chicago,” completing, according to owner Bill Hanney, it’s most successful season ever.

Set in Chicago during the 1920s, the musical takes a tongue-in-cheek look at murder, adultery, corruption, shady lawyers and all those nasty things that are still going on today.

Jessica Wockenfuss, an intern at the Matunuck barn theatre 10 years ago, plays Roxie Hart, the Chicago housewife/nightclub performer who murders her lover. Roxie hires Billy Flynn, the handsome, slick, fast-talking lawyer (Matthew J. Taylor) to defend her. Roxie pushes Velma Kelly (Michelle Alves) from the front pages until the next female murderer grabs the headlines. It all comes down to the wild and crazy trial.

Along the way we are treated to some great Bob Fosse dance numbers, a few good songs like “All That Jazz,” “Razzle Dazzle” and “Mr. Cellophane” and a plot that goes on a bit too long.

The musical has been one of Broadway’s biggest hits, with major stars playing the leads in the original and the revival. Wockenfuss, Taylor and especially Alves give them a good challenge, singing and dancing up a storm.

Director Bob Richard chooses to push the envelope a bit too far at times, making a sexy show a bit raunchy at times. An actor grabbing his crotch and another grabbing a woman’s breast actually drew some sighs from the opening night audience.

Kevin Lareque stops the show with “Mr. Cellophane,” as does Tarra Conner Jones, who was also in “Ain’t Misbehavin’” earlier in the season, with “If You’re Good to Mama.”

Sets, costumes and the great TBTS orchestra add to the glitz of the production.

While both “Mama Mia” and “Joseph and the Amazing Techincolor Dreamcoat” gave the audiences powerful, on-your-feet finales, director Bob Richard chose not to take advantage of the show-stopping reprise of “All That Jazz,” using it as a vehicle to introduce every member of the cast who individually came forward for their bow.

“Chicago” is at Theatre-by-the-Sea through September 9. Call 782-8587 for reservations.

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