Either you like musicals or you don't. Either you enjoy being seduced by nubile young performers prancing around in a Victoria's Secret scrap heap while kicking their legs 90 degrees higher than any human ever should ... or you don't. You dig jazzy songs stocked with more sexual innuendo than a British bedroom farce underwritten by the Viagra Company ... or you don't.
If you're not at least somewhat of a musical adherent, then do stay away from the Fine Arts Center's production of Chicago. But if you're so inclined, this Michael Gorman-directed musical probably won't disappoint. Based on a play by Chicago Tribune reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, Chicago was made famous by Broadway legend Bob Fosse. The tale of fame, murder and betrayal is set in the prohibition days of the dirty old windy city, where the press loves a good murder and forgets your name before the blood is dry.
Amy Sue Hardy is a storm of sassiness as the indefatigable Roxie Hart, a vaudeville chorus girl who shoots her lover and then exploits the media maelstrom to launch her show-biz career. Inside the Cook County big house she meets Velma Kelly, another starlet turned killer. The two are quick rivals, which certainly makes for some venomous numbers like "I Can't Do it Alone."
But let's face it, if you're watching a musical for the plot then everyone's in trouble. The few faults of this production include sound levels that manage to clip off some of the wry lyricism while at the same time not being loud enough. And the show could stand to be edited by 20 minutes -- perhaps by offing flat, boring numbers like "Mr. Cellophane."
Because if you produce Chicago, you either have performers whose rubber bodies caress the stage like a jazzy night of hot monkey love ... or you don't.
-- John Dicker