23 July 2011

"Chicago" at Playhouse on Park: And you think it's hot OUTSIDE?!

There may have been record-setting heat throughout Connecticut yesterday, but it was even hotter inside Playhouse on Park as a talented cast sang and schemed and slinked and snapped and stomped across the stage in another sold-out performance of Darlene Zoller's new production of the classic musical Chicago.

The great news is that another performance has been added Sunday night at 7:00 PM, so it's not too late to bask in the heat of the remarkable Kander and Ebb score, performed by a hopping orchestra under the direction of Colin Britt, and Zoller's Fosse-inspired choreography.  (Quick question: Has there been a better Broadway score since Chicago?  If so, it's not coming to me...especially since the only one I can think of, A Chorus Line, debuted the same year -- 1975 -- but a couple months earlier.)

The proximity of the actors and action to the audience makes this Chicago an even more visceral experience that other productions I have seen, and, as is usual with POP, the costuming (Erin Kacmarik), set (Ryan Bell), lighting (Tim Hache) and sound (Mike Firnhaber) are simple yet evocative. 

My favorite highlights (among many) of this production:

"Class" by Velma (Elise Murphy) and Mama (Keisha Gilles)

"Mr. Cellophane" by Amos (Rick Fountain in his best POP performance yet)

"Funny Honey" by Roxie (Bethany Fitzgerald)

and everytime the ensemble was on stage doing their thing.

My only quibbles:

Doug LeBelle's Billy Flynn was appropriately and persuasively slimy, but I wish his vocals were as up to the task as the rest of his performance.

Thao Nguyen's "Mary Sunshine" admittedly fooled me, but "A Little Bit of Good" is too funny a song to not have its lyrics better understood by the audience.

So, in short, take advantage of the additional show added this coming Sunday evening.  Your daycation to the Windy City will be a joyous one -- filled with razzle dazzle. (Just avoid women with weapons.)

The theatre's cool, but the performances are decidedly HOT.