Chicago opens with a bang on Mainstage Theater

I wondered why Chicago tickets were sold out so long in advance. When a svelte William Dehorney walked out, followed by the cast almost wearing a nice little bit of nothing, I realized why. The play opened last night with razzle-dazzle and continues through the 22nd.

Chicago is a look at a seedy America where “The world is all show business” and the public only turns its head for sex, violence, or their winning combination. It is set in the ’20s, but more closely resembles the MTV world rules by Paris Hiltons.

The leads, Madison Turner and Destinee McGinnis, play Roxie and Velma, who are both imprisoned and celebrated for murder. Twenty songs later, the judicial competition resolves and the limelight shines elsewhere. Despite the despondent view of the media and public as a whole, the script also speaks to the human need for attention.

Grady and Dehorney had relatively small roles in the play, but a great presence and dominated the scenes they were in. Aultman’s role as Billy Flynn was akin to a greasy car salesman more than a suave lawyer. The opening scene’s choreography was mechanical and stilted at first, but the dancers quickly loosened up.

The singing and music seemed overshadowed by the pirouettes and high kicks. It was as though the orchestra was afraid to intrude when it needed to the most. There was a diverse range in vocals and a few attempts at Chicago accents, but they were occasionally muted by technical errors.

The stage design wasn’t as flashy as would be expected from a play about razzle dazzle “and all that jazz” and the background screen seemed out of place. The greatest disappointment came from malfunctioning microphones and other sound errors. Lighting was excellent without being overbearing.

This year’s production of Chicago was entertaining but lacked the energy that should accompany the flashy script. It received many laughs and a standing applause for strong performances.

Upcoming events from the Department of Theatre include Angels in America: Millenium Approaches by Tony Kushner and directed by Tom Prior. This will be the first Mainstage production for the spring semester and will run Feb. 18-21. Call the box office (936) 294-1339 for tickets or more information.

Chicago by John Kander and Fred Ebb; directed and choreographed by Jonathan Charles; costume design by Kristana Hanssen; musical director/conductor Dr. Laura Avery, Set design by Gregg Buck; light designer and technical director Eric Marsh; projection designer Josh Kent; Sound by Michael Weiss and Kevin Chubirka.

STARRING: William Dehorney (Master of Ceremonies), Madison Turner (Roxie), Destinee McGinnis (Velma), Eric Aultman (Billy Flynn), Sam Weeks (Amos), Jacqui Grady (Mama Morton), P. Sanchez (Mary Sunshine).

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