There’s nothing like closing out a summer season of musicals, old and new, with as much pizzazz and sizzle as possible. The opening night production of Moonlight’s “Chicago” by Kander (Music), Ebb (Lyrics) and Fosse (Book) is about as highly stylized as seen by yours truly in some time. It’s entertainment at its highest quality. Credit it’s sleek look, staged by veteran co-directors James Vásquez and Terra MacLeod and choreographed by Corey Wright to an overall excellent cast, great timing and audience friendly feedback.
Kander and Ebb’s 1997 Tony Award winning musical “Chicago’ is the show that keeps on giving. Based on the play of the same name about actual criminals in Chicago during the prohibition era. “Chicago” held the record for the longest running musical revival and the longest running musical in Broadway history.
Anyone within earshot of the music and blessed with a reasonably decent memory can’t forget “All That Jazz”, “Cell Block Tango”, “When You’re Good To Mama”, “All I Care About”, “Roxie” “Mr. Cellophane”, “Class”, and “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag”.
The music is contagious; the story is a sharp satire on the corruption and criminal justices as it applied to celebs in the windy city during the prohibition days of the 1920’s. It has a WOW factor that if done well hits the bell every time. This one reaches for and slams it loud.
And if there is any resemblance to today’s criminal going’s on, don’t chalk it up to coincidence, it’s actually happening. Just switch out ‘Washington’ for ‘Chicago’, and there you have it.
|Terra C. MacLeod as Roxie with Danny Hansen|
Central to the story are the two adversaries Roxie Hart (Terra C. MacLeod) and Velma Kelly (Roxanne Carrasco) murderers both. They vie for the attention and bonuses that shyster lawyer Billy Flynn-“All I Care About is… Love”- (David Engel) promises, for a hefty price, to get them out of jail.
Lest we forget, they are both in there for murder. Billy is a pro at turning a murder conviction into a sympathetic news story in favor of the defendant. And so it goes.
|Danny Hansen, Roxanne Carrasco as Velma and Matthew Ryan|
In between their sad (and I say that with tongue in cheek) stories, we get to meet the other jailhouse inmates and listen to their reasons for killing their mates in a well choreographed version of “Cell Block Tango”, “We both Reached for the Gun”). Outstanding is Danielle Airey’s Hunyak (“Not Guilty”) and her aerial acrobatic decline to her plunge to death.
Adding to the women’s troubles is Matron, Mama Morton (Regina LeVert) lovingly called ‘Mama’ who promises to help them but…she needs a little help ($) herself “When You’re Good To Mama” in order to do that.
|Randall Hickman as Amos Hart|
Other obstacles abide: Roxie’s slow-love sick husband Amos (Randall Hickman) who nearly blows her defense when he recants and refuses to take the blame for her crime is typical of the fast changing dynamics of crooked courtroom drama. His “Mr. Cellophane” brought sympathetic cheers from the audience and he ate it up!
Both Carrasco and MacLeod are the odd couple that makes this production click. Always giving each other ‘the look’ their one up-man-ship keep the cogs moving. What matters is the chemistry between these two Broadway stars, both having appeared as each character on different occasions. As pros, they have it and they have it in spades.
|David Engel as Billy Flynn|
Carrasco’s wry humor and desperate need to be noticed, bounces merrily off MacLeod, who keeps the pressure on all the time. Neither is nice, but then again, they are not ‘nice’. They are schemers who happen to be in the same place at the same time trying to save their collective behinds.
|Terra C. MacLeod as Roxie and Roxanne Carrasco as Velma|
As adversaries and archenemies, over time and by necessity they become friends and with expert timing, show off some hot dancing and strong vocals (“I Can’t Do It Alone”). Carrasco and MacLeod (“Class” “My Own Best Friend”) become the dynamic duo of the evening.
And just for you know what and giggles, Elle H. Jacobs aka Luke Jacobs is a hoot as Mary Sunshine, the noted gossip columnist that interviews Roxie but is secretly lusting for Billy. We don’t learn until the end of the show that ‘she’ is barking up the wrong tree, so to speak.
|Elle H. Jacobs as 'Mary Sunshine'|
|Terra MacLeod, David Engle and company|
Jennifer Edwards’ lighting design is effective, Jim Zadai’s sound gives new meaning to John Reynolds and David Fennell’s sexy trumpets and Mark Lewis and Andrew Moreau’s velvet sounding trombones.
Plan –B Entertainment is credited for the set that has the stock look seen in every other production of “Chicago” with chairs along the sidelines, a band box look with orchestra around and above and a set of stairs for entering and leaving.
|Roxanne Carrasco and Company|
The all black on black costumes with some having touches of mesh, others in black tights and others with more skin showing than costume about sums up the dark and seedy nature of the underworld but can never take away the excitement of the music and Bob Fosse’s choreography.
Moonlight Stage Productions in Vista has as much to be proud of as does the community that supports it.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Sept. 29th
Organization: Moonlight Stage Productions
Production Type: Musical
Where: 1250 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista
Ticket Prices: $17.00- $54.00
Venue: Moonlight Amphitheatre
Photo: Ken Jacques