By Andy Dillehay
Chicago, The Lied Center, Tuesday October 25, 2022, 7:30PM
Murder. Fame. Exploitation. With topics such as these, one wouldn’t expect to have a rollicking good time at the theatre. But that’s the magic of Kander & Ebb’s satirical musical Chicago. Celebrating 25 years on Broadway, and claiming the spot as the longest-running American musical and longest-running musical revival, this production is still as fresh and exciting as it was in 1996.
Set in the 1920s, Chicago follows the story of Roxie Hart, the unhappy housewife with dreams of stardom. After murdering her lover and failing to get her husband to take the fall for the crime, Roxie finds herself on “Murderess Row” in the Cook County Jail. While in jail, Roxie quickly learns that her best way to avoid the death penalty is to land herself in the spotlight. But she’s not the only one fighting for fame; the illustrious Velma Kelly is already playing that hand.
With music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse, Chicago is a fast-paced escape into a sultry world of greed, booze, and all that jazz. With minimal scenery, and a remarkable 10-piece orchestra as the focal point, the production relies heavily on its performers. This production features a capable ensemble of actors, singers, dancers, and musicians.
Anchoring the production was Katie Frieden playing Roxie Hart. Between her dancing, singing, and comedic timing, she was a standout among many bright stars. Logan Floyd gave a powerhouse performance as Velma Kelly. Their performance seemed effortless, which is not a simple task, and they brought a surprising amount of depth to Velma. The chemistry between Floyd and Frieden was palpable. They played exceptionally well off of one another. It was an absolute joy to watch.
G.A. James’ Mary Sunshine was a knockout. With the most vocally challenging role in the show, James gave an outstanding and memorable performance. Another cast member with vocal prowess was Christina Wells as Matron “Mama” Morton. She blew the roof off of the Lied Center with her rendition of “When You’re Good to Mama.”
Playing Roxie Hart’s meek and oafish husband, Amos, was the charming Brian Kalinowski. He was a crowd favorite, as cheers rang out during one of Chicago’s most iconic songs, “Mr. Cellophane.” Kalinowski played Amos with simplicity and heart (pun intended) and the audience loved it.
As the slick attorney, Billy Flynn, Jeff Brooks played the character with garish audacity. Brooks sunk his teeth into the richness of the role. While the character isn’t particularly likable, you can’t help but enjoy Brooks’ performance.
Chicago zips through, with one memorable musical number followed by another, and another, and another…The show is filled with toe-tapping hits. The strength of this production lies in the musical numbers. While all of the numbers were enjoyable, there were a few highlights. “All That Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango,” “Roxie,” and “We Both Reached for the Gun,” amplified the talent the ensemble possessed. Katie Frieden’s “Funny Honey” was a treat, allowing the audience to witness her range. Logan Floyd’s “I Can’t Do It Alone,” proved that they, in fact, can do it alone. “Hot Honey Rag” was a fantastic way to round out this solid production.
Though it’s set in the 1920s and originally opened on Broadway in 1975, the themes in Chicago are still relevant. Sensationalism in the media, a corrupt justice system, and people being famous for being famous – these are all things we still see in today’s society. While Chicago offers an escape, it’s also a reflection. There is more to this show than “razzle dazzle.”
With three more performances at the Lied Center, this is a gem of a show that you don’t want to miss. There’s a reason that Chicago has won over countless audiences across the globe, and this production is a prime example of why.
If you go: Chicago runs Tuesday October 25th through Friday October 28th at 7:30PM. Ticket information can be found at https://www.liedcenter.org.
Andy Dillehay is a writer/actor/artist from Lincoln, Nebraska, having been involved with theatre since he was 7 years old.
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