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|A CurtainUp Review
By Laura Hitchcock
Patrick Swayze was born to play Billy Flynn. He has the edge, he has the charm, and he projects the outsize Hollywood star quality that makes the "creative justice" in Chicago understandable, if not forgivable. Too bad Flynn, the lawyer who manipulates his murderess clients, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, out of the slammer and onto the stage, doesn't have more dance numbers or that more weren't created for Swayze.
Beginning as a ballet dancer with The Joffrey and other companies, segueing to Broadway as Danny Zuko in Grease, and making his cinematic dancer's bones in the unforgettable dance classic, Dirty Dancing, Swayze's career hit a major bump in the road when he was thrown from a horse and sustained serious leg and back injuries. He's still got the moves in his major number, "Razzle Dazzle", and underlines the difference between an actor who's learned steps and a dancer whose entire body interprets the music.
The supporting cast is, without exception, excellent. A particular standout is Bianca Marroquin, whose gamine face and comic flair bring layers of wannabe to Roxie Hart. Beautiful Reva Rice plays Velma with imperious grace. As Matron "Mama" Morton, the wonderful Carol Woods' big warm voice drips honey and venom especially in her duet with Velma, "Class." Ray Bokhour finds the tremulous devotion in Roxie's elderly husband Amos, even as he tries to emulate the high-steppers with a few steps of his own in the haunting "Mr. Cellophane." R. Bean is truly amazing, both vocally and physically, as sobsister Mary Sunshine.
The sheer black chorus costumes designed by William Ivey Long convey wicked urban seduction and raw sensuality but are not as effective as the derbys and tuxedo jackets on Roxie and Velma. This superb touring version of the production directed by Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse has been thoroughly reviewed here in its New York debut. It only remains to comment that the historic Pantages Theatre, refurbished for The Lion King, is the perfect period setting for Chicago.
The longer Chicago plays, the more contemporary it feels. Only yesterday we saw Lizzie Grubman, the celebrity publicist who served time for petulantly backing her car into a doorman and guests at a Long Island night club, spouting society commentary on cable news. Out of the slammer onto the screen!
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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