Last weekend I went to see Chicago with my boyfriend at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. I had never seen it onstage before, though I was familiar with the majority of the music. With so many Broadway stars, classic songs, and charismatic performances, I’m glad I saw the musical before the tour moved on.
Directed by Walter Bobbie (Bright Star, Footloose), this tour of Chicago brought many seasoned Broadway actors to the stage to reprise their roles including Dylis Croman (Oklahoma!, In Your Arms), Terra C. MacLeod (The Addams Family, Spamalot), and Paul Vogt (Hairspray, Oliver!).
Croman stars as Roxie Hart, who was easily one of the best performances of the evening. It’s not surprising that Croman crushed her role given that she starred as Roxie on Broadway. Croman shone as Roxie, nailing down Roxie’s narcissism and desperation for fame, even if she has to kill a man and fake a pregnancy to get it.
Another standout performance was that of MacLeod who starred as Velma Kelly. I’ve always loved Velma as a character more than Roxie; she’s just as hungry for fame, but her character oozes an initial confidence that is then shaken by Roxie’s arrival. To watch MacLeod take Velma to heights of vanity and bring her down to self-loathing and confusion was a treat to see.
Of course, Jennifer Fouche (Babes in Toyland, Hairspray) and Vogt were also standout additions to the cast. They played Matron Mama Morton and Amos Hart respectively and were delightful side characters that each had their moment in the spotlight to highlight their onstage personas.
I was particularly taken with Vogt since Amos is such an easily manipulated sap and needs to be won over by the crowd. Throughout his performance, particularly when he asks the orchestra for his background music and is met with silence, Vogt earned several sympathetic “awws.” Vogt has played Amos before on Broadway and he brought the same sympathetic charm, particularly during “Mr. Cellophane.”
The only one who stood out from the others was Eddie George, former NFL player who donned the role of Billy Flynn. He’s played parts in other plays as well such The Whipping Man and Othello, but Flynn was the sore thumb that stood out in a cast of Broadway stars or more charismatic cast members. His voice was drowned out by the music, which was a problem no one else faced, and lacked the confidence his character demands. This was most obvious during “Razzle Dazzle;” the song calls for a much stronger performance and is one of the defining pieces of the entire play. Though, George fell short in a role that was ill-suited for him. This was, in fact, the first thing that my boyfriend and I discussed during the intermission.
The house was nearly packed, but a week or two after I ordered my tickets (in the back of the mezzanine) I was mailed an additional pair of tickets that moved me a few rows closer. Initially I thought they were meant for someone else, but when I brought them to the theatre I was told that my original seats were closed and I was now being moved forward. It was unfortunate to see that some of the seating was closed off, more than likely because of poor sales.
Given that this is Chicago’s 20th anniversary tour, people’s attention may have drawn more so to tough competition like Come From Away, a show that extended their run until February. However, I was surrounded by passionate theatre-goers at Ed Mirvish; the man beside me was quick to voice his disapproval of certain comedic elements to his partner while a woman behind me sang along to 85% of the music.
Regardless, I was glad that I saw Chicago before the tour ended.