Front Row Center – April 2017

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

CHICAGO (the musical)
Staged and Directed by Barbara Clippinger
Choreographer Alexis Hoff, Music Director Patteye Simpson


front rowWe’ve all seen the 2002 movie version of Chicago which won the Best Picture Award that year, and maybe a few of us have seen the musical on the stage. This show was a welcome reminder of how good it can be, with excellent direction and a talented and energetic cast. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, the musical is based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals and crimes she reported on. The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the “celebrity criminal.”

The show is introduced by ‘Master of Ceremonies” Cortlandt Jones who provides a smooth and effective link between scenes, and incidentally plays a fake piano rather well. We soon meet the principal characters (and accused murderesses) “Roxie Hart” and “Velma Kelly” played by Kristine Moily and Alexis Hoff. I remember seeing Kristine Moily in 2008/9 in a couple of Agatha Christie murder mysteries, so I already knew her to be a talented actor – here she also displayed terrific skills as a singer and dancer. Alexis Hoff (with her million-dollar legs) was well cast as Velma the cabaret performer, now a temporary jailbird.

The other star of the show was Patrick DuMouchel, who gave a stunning performance as ace lawyer “Billy Flynn.” I should also mention strong supporting roles by Rob Stupple as the hapless husband “Amos Hart,” and by Patteye Simpson as prison warden “Mama Morton.” I particularly enjoyed Amos’ sad little song   Mr Cellophane, and the comic sob-sister routine by Peggy Lord Chilton as reporter “Mary Sunshine.” Patteye Simpson enjoyed herself and displayed a powerful voice in When You’re Good To Mama, and she and Alexis Hoff sang well together in a classic number Class.

It was a big cast and all performed professionally. Thanks to Chet Beeswanger, Russell Mack, Peter Luciano, Flemming Halby, Sharon Lowry, Jeff Kingsbury, Heather Hunter, Graham Miller, Catherine Gonzales and Jutta McAdam. The dance routines were well choreographed and energetically performed by Val Jones, Heather Hunter, D’Le Beatty-Tobias, Monica Freyslinger, Allyson DeJong, Joanne Stuart and Pamela Johnson. I enjoyed all the numbers – particularly the ventriloquist doll song Both Reached For The Gun, brilliantly performed by Roxie and Billy. Of course the show had to open with All That Jazz, and it was fast-paced entertainment from then on.

Putting on this musical was a tremendous undertaking, with as many backstage workers as onstage performers. I congratulate all the Set Construction crew and the slick Set Design by Holly Haas and Michael McGrath. Wardrobe Mistress Johanna Clark had to provide 100 costumes, and the dressers had to cope with as many as 150 costume changes. There were 65 sound cues and more than 70 lighting cues. The Producer was Michael McGrath, Stage Manager was Sandy Topazio, and her Assistant was Jeff Kingsbury. Overall, a terrific show and a wonderful swansong for Barbara Clippinger as Director at LLT. She is stepping down after 20 years – we wish her well, and all that jazz!

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