Tacoma Musical Playhouse takes audiences back to an era when jazz was king and alcohol was illegal in “Chicago.” This musical is based on the play “Chicago” by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Some may have seen the successful movie version released in 2002, which won six Academy Awards.
The setting is the Windy City in the 1920s, the era of speakeasies and flappers. Roxie Hart is a Southern belle from a wealthy family who has moved to Chicago and married Amos Hart (Chris Serface), a boring but loving husband. She is having an affair with Fred Casely (Cameron Brown).
In the movie version Roxie and her lover attend a nightclub show where Velma performs. Candi Hall, executive director of DASH Center for the Arts, puts in a strong performance as Velma. Casely has led her to believe he has connections in the vaudeville circuit and can get her gigs. She ends up fatally shooting him when he admits he lied about his connections.
In this performance he appears only in a bedroom scene. He hurriedly gets dressed and prepares to leave Roxie’s house when she gets angry and shoots him.
Serface make the audience feel for his sympathetic character. This is exemplified in the song “Mister Cellophane” in act II.
Kristin Burch and Lauren Nance rotate between the characters Roxie and Go-To-Hell Kitty on various days. Burch was playing Roxie the day this play was reviewed and she gave a commanding performance.
Velma is in jail for killing her husband and her sister when she finds them in bed together. Velma and Roxie vie for the attention of the Chicago media, which is orchestrated by their conniving lawyer Billy Flynn (Rafe Wadleigh). The newspaper reporters are depicted as easily manipulated pawns used to generate sympathy from the public for Roxie. The song “We Both Reached For the Gun” does a great job portraying this, with reporters with strings around their arms, as puppets being controlled from above.
The center of the stage appears and disappears behind a curtain throughout the play. It serves as various settings, from a bedroom to a room in the jail to a courtroom. An interesting note for his production was Musical Director Jeffrey Stvrtecky and the TMP Orchestra were not in their usual place on the floor to the left of the state but on top of the scenery in their own small loft space. They give a strong performance of the lively jazz numbers that are so central to conveying the mood of the play.
The program does not list a costume designer, but rather a costume committee and a special thanks to Lynda Pressey for costume items. The costumers play a major role in the play’s success. Roxie in particular looks sexy in everything, from her striped jail uniform to her yellow and white Vaudeville outfit and the black and white dress she wears during her trial.
TMP has a real winner with this production. It is packed with great singing, music and dancing. “Chicago” runs through Oct. 21. It is not recommended for patrons under age 13. For information on show times and ticket prices, visit http://www.tmp.org.