“Chicago” – Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ January 31, 2011


Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre
Mesa, AZ

The razzle-dazzle musical “Chicago” needs a spunky, pulsating production to succeed. On opening night earlier this month, the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre version lacked the bouncy exuberance necessary to get an audience in a foot-stomping mood. It wasn’t the fault of the three leads – Amy Marie McCleary’s sultry dancer/singer Velma Kelly, Maggie Politi’s floozy performer Roxie Hart, or Jason Fleck’s sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn. And it wasn’t M. Seth Reines’ breezy staging that had just the right slap-dash beat.

It was alternative musical director Denise Minter who failed to give the orchestra and cast regular orchestra leader JR McAlexander’s sparkling pizzazz and jivin’ spirit. Minter led the orchestra dryly and without the rhythmic, soul busting beat “Chicago” must have. She sat expressionless as she blandly plunked out a tame, blah sound. She didn’t give the well known John Kander and Fred Ebb jazzy score its needed sparkle even though the cast pushed her to give them the needed soaring punch. Fortunately, McAlexander returned and, in a recent “Chicago” revisit, things improved dramatically with a now pulsating, beat-driven band making the production soar.

The show pictures seedy Chicago entertainment in the late ‘20s. Entertainers busy themselves with murders so they end up in jail where bribes to prison matrons are necessary as are the services of flashy lawyer Flynn who flambozals courts to let the guilty out. The pulsating tunes expose the story and inspire dances influenced by Bob Fosse’s original creations as they reveal that crime is a way of life for these societal misfits.

With the pulsating beat McAlexander provides, the songs explode. The cast was dying to do that opening night but with the failed orchestra the only thing working were choreographer Millie Garvey’s sharply angled and wonderfully recreated dances and Reines’ brisk staging. Everything was zestfully performed, though, by the talented ensemble’s dancer/singers and the stars. Augmenting the leads are Marisha Wallace’s easily bought and big voiced prison Matron “Mama” Morton, Roxie’s dutiful spouse Amos played with sad wistfulness by Victor Legarreta, and newspaper reporter Mary Sunshine who hides something in Courtney Love’s winning guise.

“Chicago” is a sad show for Broadway Palm regulars who have come to know and love Reines’ stalwart productions. After 10 years as the theater’s first and only artistic producer, “Chicago” marks Reines’ last Broadway Palm show. Without Reines, the theater has huge shoes to fill. “Chicago” is also musical supervisor McAlexander’s last show and he is also a major loss for the theater.

With the right orchestra beat, Broadway Palm’s “Chicago” marks a fitting end to the Reines/McAlexander reign. “Chicago” runs through February 12. For tickets, call the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater box office at 480-325-6700 or order tickets online at www.BroadwayPalmWest.com.

Grade: A