"Chicago" comes to Austin

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“Chicago” has everything: money, murder, sex, and “Razzle Dazzle.” I have inexplicitly found myself humming “Cell Block Tango” on multiple occasions. So when I heard the national tour was coming to the Bass Concert Hall, there was no doubt I would attend.

Based on real 1920s events, “Chicago” tells the story of murderer Roxie Hart, as she gains fame during her trial, and murderer Velma Kelly, a washed up star, trying to regain the same fame.

The musical production is very different from the 2002 film version. Rather than shifting from location to location, the entire live show is performed in the courtroom, with the story told through vaudevillian style musical acts. The musical a less realistic feel than the film and emphasizes the idea that Hart’s trial is a performance.

The musical’s showiness allows the cast to interact directly with the audience and the characters become caricatures at points. This over the top style of the show does make emotional connection to the characters more difficult though.

“Chicago” is known for its minimalist staging, so I was not surprised when the stage was sparse. The set, as well as costuming, was completely colorless, with the exception of a few gold accents. There were some movable chairs and a ladder on each end of the stage, but the majority of the set was composed of a black bleacher-like structure that mimicked a jury box in a courtroom. This is where the orchestra sat for the entirety of the show. The characters would playfully interact with the musicians and directors, which added a fun dynamic.

Stand out moments included “Tap Dance,” Roxie’s monologue and "Mister Cellophane." In “The Tap Dance” Billy Flynn (John O’Hurley) uses Roxie as a literal puppet to tell the media what they need to hear for her to be freed from jail. Roxie’s monologue, before the musical number “Roxie” was actress Anne Horak’s most truthful moment in the show. Todd Buonopane’s number "Mister Cellophane" left me feeling sorry for his always ignored character Amos Hart.

Terra C. MacLeod’s performance as Velma Kelly was particularly great. She played Kelly as a true show woman, constantly trying to sell herself as a star. MacLeod managed to balance Kelly’s show business persona with truth.

Overall, “Chicago” was an entertaining show, true to the musical’s original vaudevillian style. With all of the engaging numbers and characters, it is no wonder “Chicago” is the longest running Broadway show.