By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
When Roxie Hart (Lexie Rohlf) shoots her lover Fred Casely (Dylan Berkshire) and begs her husband, Amos (Tyler Handford), to take the blame, it’s only a matter of time before the sultry sex kitten gets locked up in the big house in Broadway’s iconic musical, “Chicago.”
In the slammer, Hart encounters vixen Velma Kelly (Rebecca Kaufman Taylor) and a classic rivalry begins. Both femme fatales are pleading for the same lawyer, Billy Flynn (Jeremy Kuharcik) to take their respective cases. For the right price, Flynn will defend them, but he is only interested in the publicity and cold cash.
The villainous duo compete for everything. They both try to sidle up to Big Mama Morton (Kellie Wilson), and pander to star reporter Mary Sunshine (Matt Fawcett). They are both filled with lust for fame and fortune. Neither of them, however, know the difference between fame and infamy. But Hart and Kelly live by Oscar Wilde’s famous aphorism; “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
The duo are quickly upstaged by Go-to-Hell Kitty (Melissa Murtha), a villainess even more ruthless than both of them combined. Then, Roxy comes up with a devious plan.
Side note: The musical has been around since 1975, but there will be no spoilers here.
Check out a sneak peek of “All that Jazz” here.
t’s an exceptional production mostly due to its leads, Rohlf’s Roxie and Taylor’s Velma.
Rohlf’s Roxie is engaging, literally charming the pants off of her string of paramours. She is fearless, fierce. This Roxie has moxie. Rohlf pulls it off effortlessly.
Not to be upstaged, but Taylor’s Velma is outstanding. She hits every note with style and panache. She is very charismatic. Her dance moves are sharp and precise. It’s a flawless performance.
Director John F. Wagner, III cast well. His choices for Flynn (Kuharcik), Mama (Wilson) and Mary Sunshine (Fawcett) are pitch perfect.
Kuharcik exudes charm as the smarmy lawyer. Dazzling the audience with the greatest of ease as any great Billy Flynn can. He plays the beguiling Film-Flam man with aplomb.
Wilson’s Mama has the smoky, husky qualities to her voice that make her a spot-on pick.
Fawcett is operatic as Mary Sunshine. To say more would spoil some of the surprise.
This production’s rendition of “Cell Block Tango” is masterful. The number is early in the show and easily convinces the audience they are in for a helluva good time.
The show is not without flaws. It is overstuffed with extras. That said, Brennen Malia pushed his way out of the background with some very fluid and precise dance moves. He was an extra who stood out from the others. He also has some cute comic bits as “The Jury.”
There is one GLARING problem with this production. There’s a little too much razzle dazzle from lighting designers Jeremy Rolla of Vincent Lighting. Several times during the show, the audience is assaulted by lights so bright, you’d think you were having a Close Encounter of the Third Kind. If you’re going, shield your eyes during at top of the show and the beginning of act two. A blinding red light will melt your eye sockets.
However, with the delivery of the snappy dialogue, the crisp movement of the choreography and star turns for Taylor Rohlf and Kuharcik make this “Chicago” a winner. It’s a bit far from Pittsburgh, but the theater is grand, elegant and worth the trip.
“Chicago” runs July 29 and 30 at the State Theatre Center for the Arts, 37 East Main Street, Uniontown, PA 15401. For additional information, click here.