I love local theater, and so I was excited to attend the Studio Connections’ production of the musical “Chicago” last weekend. Unfortunately, the show faltered in spots and left me disappointed, but there were no problems that couldn’t be fixed before the show enters its final run this weekend.
“Chicago” is based on a play of the same name that was written by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins. She was assigned to cover the 1924 trials of two murderesses for the Chicago Tribune.
This interesting backstory was provided in the play’s handbill and I found it fascinating. Apparently, Watkins’ coverage of the trial was so popular that she wrote the play, which made it all the way to Broadway in 1924.
Cecil B. DeMile produced a silent version of it in 1927, and it was made as “Roxie Hart” (named for one of its lead characters) in 1942 starring Ginger Rogers.
Eventually, it was made into the stage version made famous by Bob Fosse, and into the Academy Award-winning film by director Rob Marshall.
Them’s pretty big shoes to fill, and the Studio Connections’ production works hard to fill them with a talented cast from The daVinci Players and wonderful, live music.
The problems at Saturday’s matinee started early with a bad microphone on one of its leading ladies, Chezale Rodriguez as Velma Kelly. To her credit, she didn’t flinch. Instead, she belted out “All That Jazz” with pizzazz.
It was followed by an impressive rendering of the popular “Cell Block Tango,” which featured the six accused murderesses describing how their men died. The sassy song had good energy.
Brian Levario as lawyer Billy Flynn and Ida Rhem as Mama Morton (the prison matron) are excellent singers. They’re also fine actors but lacked that extra spark that would have set the show on fire.
Eddie Diaz, as Roxie’s long-suffering husband, has the look and voice to be a great Amos. I liked him a lot, but he fell short of great during his big musical number. “Mister Cellaphane,” in which he laments that people – even those he loves – ignore him, should have been a showstopper. But at times Diaz seemed more focused on his hand and feet choreography and so was unable to tug at our heartstrings with the song’s moving lyrics.
My favorite was Rachel Santay, who played murderess Roxie Hart. Her Roxie was funny, self-centered, quick-thinking and high energy, although she did seem a bit winded after a particularly spirited song-and-dance number.
And the audience responded well to Samantha Cormier, an ensemble player who appeared as a juror in the big trial scene. With her glasses and grins, she evoked laughs where they were appropriate.
All in all, “Chicago” is a decent production. It just wasn’t a spectacular one. I’m rooting for a strong finish this weekend.
For tickets, visit www.studioconnections.net or call 1-800-838-3006.