It’s brassy! It’s sassy! It’s Chicago!
Hang onto your hats because ‘The Windy City’ has blown into Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia, where Directors Toby Orenstein and Lawrence B. Munsey bring “the ol’ razzle dazzle” to Kander and Ebb’s musical classic!
Chicago is set in the 1920s, where the biggest stars were either found onstage or in a jail cell. When Roxie Hart shoots her lover in a fit of rage – she quickly becomes a news sensation to the chagrin of songstress-turned-murderess Velma Kelly. Fame is wonderful, but can Roxie’s lawyer, the manipulative and slick Billy Flynn convince a jury that Roxie isn’t guilty?
Musical guilty pleasures abound while Carole Graham Lehan (Roxie) and Jeffrey Shankle (Billy) pleasurably perform “Funny Honey,” “Razzle Dazzle,” and “All I Care About is Love.” Debra Buonaccorsi’s Velma is nimble and limber as she dances deftly in “Cell Block Tango” and “I Can’t Do It Alone.” David James is perfectly pathetic as the scorned, sad-eyed Amos Hart. His heartbreaking and heart-tugging rendition of “Mr. Cellophane” makes the audience want to ‘wrap’ Amos up in a comforting hug.
A comfort to anyone with cash was none other than the matron of the Cook County Jail – Mama Morton – played by Jesaira Glover. With all of the cheers from the audience at Glover’s entrance and after she sang her first song, it proved that “when you’re good to Mama, Mama’s good to you!” And Jesaira was also very good with her funny rendition of ‘“Class” sung with Ms. Buonaccorsi.
The audience was also good to Chris Rudy when he performed many vocal feats in “A Little Bit of Good” as Mary Sunshine, the news reporter who focuses on the ‘bright side’ of each of her stories. Her singing would have made any operatic soprano proud!
Hitting all of the high notes and high kicks, the ensemble executed choreographer Ilona Kessell’s simple and sultry dances, giving importance to every roll of a shoulder, swirl of a hip and shimmy. We especially enjoyed the eye-popping circus-like choreography and staging for “Razzle Dazzle.”
Backing the strong voices of the ensemble was the live, sweet-sounding and sometimes brassy orchestra, led by Helen Hayes Award-winner Christopher Youstra. Making sure the jail was not stale, Lighting Designer Lynn Joslin brought bright reds to the dark corridors of the Cook County penitentiary.
So break out of your cells and ditch the striped suits and enjoy Toby’s Chicago, because this production has “all that jazz” and more!
Chicago plays through November 6th, at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia – 5900 Symphony Woods Road, in Columbia, MD. To order tickets, call (410) 730-8311 or 1-800-88TOBYS, or purchase them.