By now, most people have seen the Oscar-winning film
“Chicago.” Yet too few have had the privilege of
watching Bob Fosse, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s musical live
onstage, an entirely different experience. But the opportunity is
finally here. The must-see North American tour runs for the rest of
the week at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit.

“Chicago” is based on the 1924 case of a woman who
shot her lover, told her husband that the dead man was an intruder
and subsequently confessed to the murder while drunk. The case
generated a huge amount of press, and she claimed to be pregnant
while in jail to avoid execution. The jury declared the pretty
prisoner not guilty.

The musical follows the exploits of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly,
two murderesses who become celebrities with the help of their
lawyer, Billy Flynn. He treats their cases like theatre:
“These trials, the whole world — all show business
… They’ll let you get away with murder.”

While the production is driven by spectacle, the show does not
rely on extensive sets. Instead, the orchestra sits in costume
onstage and the songs are propelled forward by an impressive cast
with an arsenal of Fosse-inspired choreography.

While the music is wonderful, it is the actors who made the
Detroit opening memorable. Bianca Marroquin is a loveable, sultry
Roxie Hart, far surpassing Renée Zellweger’s
unimpressive film performance. Reva Rice, fresh from the Broadway
production, lends her remarkable voice and presence as Velma Kelly.
And Carol Woods infuses “When You’re Good to
Mama” with a unique gospel flavor that brought cheers from
the house. Even the ensemble cast is strong.

The lone performer who seemed less-than-stellar in the beginning
was an unexpected surprise in the end. Don’t become annoyed
with R. Bean’s excessive vibrato as Mary Sunshine, for all is
not as it seems.

Small, memorable moments are abundant, as are jokes. Marroquin
singing “Funny Honey” on a ladder, the trio of smoking
dancers during “Tap Dance” and the lone juror during
the trial all add their own comedic flair.

Although superficial at first glance, “Chicago”
nonetheless manages social commentary on the amorality of the court
system: Guilty media darlings go free while the innocent hang. In
the words of Billy Flynn, “We’re a living example of
what a wonderful country this is.”

Fine Arts Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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