Putting a relevant "Chicago" on stage in 2018 is a tricky proposition.
More than 40 years after its Broadway debut, the musical is, fairly or not, defined by the Academy Award-winning 2002 film that so ably captured its style and attitude. And, four decades on, its groundbreaking Bob Fosse choreography and jazzy pacing, while still impressive, has a (naturally) dated feel that makes it more historical throwback than contemporary marvel.
The fate of any "Chicago" production now really relies on having a cast whose performances can breathe some fresh life into a beloved warhorse. And that's what's missing in the incarnation of the show at the Fisher Theatre through Sunday, Oct. 21.
This crew of "Chicago" hits its marks -- and that's about it. All the steps are right, the lines intact, but at no point does it rise above a point of professional recitation. There's a stiffness that misses the snap and crackle that's the musical's stock in trade and a palpable lack of chemistry that makes the more languid moments downright ponderous. Even the designed high points, such as the "Nowadays"/"Hot Honey Rag" finale, fall flat, and there are too many points throughout where we'd like to see them lock Roxie Hart, Velma Kelly and the rest up for good and throw away the key, and dis-bar Billy Flynn in the process.
It's not a total loss, mind you. Dylis Croman raises Roxie out of the morass during "Roxie," and the company makes the courtroom "Razzle Dazzle" work well -- particularly support players such as Andrew Eckert as Fred Casely and a hilarious Matthew Winnegge as the one-man, multi-character jury. D. Ratell is solid as the hard-to-spoil Mary Sunshine, and the orchestra, situated in the middle of the stage,
And Jennifer Fouche, returning to her home town as Matron "Mama" Morton, gives a broad, big-voiced performance that brings the show to life whenever she's on stage -- and shows she can dial it down, too, for the "Class" duet with Terra C. MacLeod's Vera.
"Chicago" certainly has a rich heritage and the potential to still shine, and we've certainly seen our share of exceptional companies come through Detroit. This one, however, seems comfortable to let the show rest on its familiar laurels, and "Chicago" and its audiences deserve better.
"Chicago" runs Tuesday through Sunday, Oct. 16-21, at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tickets are $39-$94. Call 313-872-1000 or visit broadwayindetroit.com.
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