“C’mon babe, why don’t we paint the town/And all that jazz?”
It’s a tempting invitation, that opening song in the Broadway musical “Chicago.” And a lot of people have taken Velma Kelly, one of the show’s unrepentant murderesses, up on her offer.
If you’ve never watched this sharp and snazzy show live, the Oscar-winning film (true to the spirit of Bob Fosse’s original stage production) was no shabby stand-in.
But there’s a starker, darker streak of witty cynicism, social commentary and pizazz in the live rendition, and Village Theatre’s “Chicago” captures a lot of that.
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The arch-Brechtian vaudeville format of this satire about the intersection of crime, money and celebrity is smartly conveyed in the assured Steve Tomkins staging. And like the ongoing 1996 Broadway revival (which rescued “Chicago” from obscurity 30 years after its debut), the show strips Velma (Desireé Davar), Roxie (Taryn Darr) and their 1920s Murderer’s Row sisterhood down to their black lingerie and stockings as they strut, scheme and belt their publicity-hungry hearts out.
Kristin Holland’s choreography doesn’t have all the snap and slink of the Fosse dances, but it’s dispatched with verve. And the lead actors crackle: pistol-hot Davar and Darr, whose voices and looks make a striking contrast; Timothy McCuen Piggee as debonair but shady lawyer Billy Flynn; and Shaunyce Omar, whose big voice fills up those John Kander-Fred Ebb songs with growls and gusto, as the prison matron Mama Morton.
And Rich Gray beguiles in the role of shambling, gullible Amos. His dandy rendition of “Mr. Cellophane” elicits laughter and pity for Roxie’s sucker of a spouse.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org