AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Book by Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse
Based on a play by Maurine Dallas Watkins
Directed & Choreographed by Janie Scott
Presented by Palo Alto Players
Lucie Stern Theater
1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto / (650) 329-0891

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Palo Alto Players' production of "Chicago" gets off to a great start with "All That Jazz" and just keeps going from there. With terrific singing, dancing and acting, this multiple Tony-winning musical lights up the stage.

Featuring catchy music by John Kander, clever lyrics by Fred Ebb and a book by Ebb and Bob Fosse (based on a play by Maurine Dallas Watkins), "Chicago" is set in the Windy City near the end of the Roaring '20s. That's when the media seemed obsessed with crime, the more lurid the better.

Thus when the adulterous Roxie Hart (Elizabeth Santana) kills her lover, Fred (Mohamed Ismail, who also serves as the MC), reporters swarm onto her story, dismaying her potential rival, Velma Kelly (Janelle LaSalle).

All this sets the stage for a series of memorable songs, such as "Cell Block Tango," sung by Velma and the women's chorus; and "When You're Good to Mama," sung by Jennifer Taylor Daniels as jail matron "Mama" Morton.

Others are "Razzle Dazzle," sung by Michael Monagle as Billy Flynn, a fast-talking lawyer; the sweetly poignant "Mr. Cellophane," sung by Joey McDaniel as Amos Hart, Roxie's clueless but loyal husband; and "A Little Bit of Good" sung by N. Sanchez as sob-sister reporter Mary Sunshine.

Santana as Roxie and LaSalle as Velma blend seamlessly in "My Own Best Friend" and others.

These are just some of the highlights in this high-energy production so inventively directed and choreographed by Janie Scott with musical direction by Katie Coleman, who conducts the onstage orchestra while playing a mean piano.

The '20s era costumes are by Jeffrey Hamby, but keeping the men's chorus mostly in their underwear seems like an odd choice. The versatile set is by Patrick Klein with lighting by Nick Kumamoto and sound by Grant Huberty.

All of these elements from performers to artistic staff add up to one terrific, don't-miss-it show.

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