A Musical Vaudeville

Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Based on the play Chicago
by Maurine Dallas Watkins
Directed by Kyle Ennis Turoff
Starring Bill Hayes, Charlene Clark & Jillian Godfrey
Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, Sarasota
25 N. Pineapple Ave., 941-366-5454
May 13 through July 6, 2008

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

With a reprise of Chicago, Golden Apple's big 2004 hit, we are twice blessed! Charlene Clark as Velma Kelly and Jillian Godfrey as Roxie Hart come back more seasoned in evil ambiguity as 1920s murderers seeking acquittal by becoming sensational media favorites. Guest star Bill Hayes, a media star himself, charms as the slippery lawyer Billy Flynn who equally loves money and a "Razzle Dazzle" opportunity, whether it be conning press and juries or doing a soft shoe or tap routine. Smooth Roberta MacDonald repeats her Matron Mama Morton's covetous "care" of her prisoners, assuring them good things follow "When You're Good to Mama." Rotund, gravelly soprano C. Thomas, as sob sister Mary Sunshine, is always ready to do "A Little Bit of Good" for the pitiable gals. Fooling the public is easier when, like Roxie, one has a "Cellophane Man" as dumb as her husband Amos. (Michael Bajjaly performs like a whiteface, when actually white-gloved, minstrel and is constantly called Andy by Flynn.)

No matter how good the principals, a musical co-originated by Bob Fosse needs a smashing group of dancers with lithe torsos and able to create stunning geometry with arms and legs. They fit the bill, choreographed by Dewayne Barrett. He dances smartly and sexily right along with them, keyed by the opening "All That Jazz." Of the many good special numbers the one with Godfrey's Roxie popping up and down on the lap of Hayes' ventriloquist-like Billy makes a special impression. With Clark's sophisticated bearing and Godfrey's all-out energy, their duets "Nowadays" and "Hot Honey Rag" make them a perfect pair to team up as a final vaudeville act.

Material and performers are so colorful that Dee Richards was wise to make almost every costume black. Michael Newton-Brown's set, in which musical director John Visser and his four fine musicians sit on stage against a colorful cyclorama, also uses side ladders and a central doorway to keep the emphasis on show-biz. Director Kyle Ennis Turoff makes performances and all the technical aspects of the productions fit the vaudeville conception to perfection. We couldn't ask for better, especially in a reprise.

Stage Manager is Alyssa Goudy. Time: 2 hours, plus a 15 minute break.

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