Katie Frieden as Roxie Hart in Chicago. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
When Roxie Hart kills her lover in 1920s Chicago, she finds herself caught up in a frenzy of fame and media attention, topped off with a dose of female rivalry. That’s the familiar premise behind Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse’s beloved Chicago, which features music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.
And, while most viewers know this story well, the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) is offering up a short-lived chance to see the tale told in a whole new way. Apex Touring’s production celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Tony-winning revival by pulling out all the stops.
Tânia Nardini’s recreation of the original production direction, coupled with fun, flashy choreography recreated by Gary Chryst, add fresh zest to this saucy tale. And, speaking of “saucy,” Katie Frieden adds just the right blend of spunk and vulnerability in her role as Roxie. It’s hard to imagine anything more fun than watching her face off against her nemesis, fellow stardom-obsessed inmate, Velma Kelly, portrayed to sneaky, scheming, sarcastic perfection by Logan Floyd.
The two are also joined by money-hungry lawyer Billy Flynn, played by a charming Jeff Brooks. While he might bring the “razzle dazzle,” it’s Roxie’s cluelessly enamored husband, Amos (Brian Kalinowski) who pulls at the heartstrings. Kalinowski is believably befuddled and sweetly sad in all the right places. His sympathetic rendering of “Mr. Cellophane” is one of the highlights of the show. Similarly, Christina Wells wows as Matron “Mama” Morton, the corrupt warden who pulls all the strings at Cook County Jail. Wells dominates the stage with over-the-top-energy and a fun flair for the dramatic.
Jeff Brooks and Company in Chicago. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
As fame and crime intertwine and Roxie’s fate unfolds, viewers are also treated to well-executed, eye-catching choreography played out against a purposefully stark stage. From the effortlessly smooth opening number to the incredibly high kicks in “I Can’t Do It Alone,” there’s always something interesting to see. Scantily-clad bodies move in magical ways and add to the steamy, sultry atmosphere. Underneath that simmering surface, however, lie themes that call celebrity, greed, and corruption into question, reminding viewers that, even all these years later, Chicago is still incredibly relevant.
Despite that relevancy, this run is as short-lived as the fame you get for committing a heinous crime. Viewers have until Sunday to see the show, and this is one you won’t want to miss!
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