Kander and Ebb’s Chicago is one of those timeless shows that falls under the category of: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Originally directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, Chicago opened on Broadway in 1975. Now the show’s 1996 revival is celebrating its 25th year running, maintaining direction by Walter Bobbie, and Fosse-inspired choreography by Ann Reinking. And the production is as splendiferous as ever.
National Theatre’s Broadway at the National is currently hosting the touring production of Chicago through November 27. The live orchestra is hot. The performers are stunning. And the vibe is absolutely titillating.
Logan Floyd plays the sassy and resilient Velma Kelly, starting off the show with the spicy “All That Jazz.” Right from the start, it is clear that the cast is on fire. Their precision and enthusiasm are a delicious thing to watch, even if you’ve seen the show a million times.
Velma’s frenemy Roxy Hart is played by the exuberant Katie Frieden. Frieden nails the spoiled naivete of Roxy with more ego than brain. She gushes over her devoted hubby, Amos (Brian Kalinowski), as he attempts to take the fall for her in “Funny Honey” until the truth of her infidelity is revealed and he turns on her.
But Frieden truly shines in her “Roxie” number, when she revels in the fame she has achieved, finally getting her name in the headlines. Frieden’s Fosse fierceness paired with her entourage of Boys (Lincoln Bedford, Tony Carruba, Ed Gotthelf, Robert Garris aka Shapiro, Tal Kedem, Jordan Vasquez, and Asher Van Meter) in the number is delightfully salacious in all the right ways.
Kalinowski’s Amos is heartbreaking but in the self-deprecating, comedic way that is the tone of Chicago. His rendition of “Mr. Cellophane” has all the feels of an abused puppy that you just want to scoop into your arms and hug away the hurt.
One of my favorite numbers of the show has always been “Cell Block Tango.” Full of tongue-in-cheek “true” accounts of the Murderesses’ deceased husbands and lovers, riddled with rage. And this sultry group of Murderesses did not disappoint. Floyd’s Velma, along with June (Jess Diforte), Annie (Jasmine Janae), Mona (Evy Vaughan), Liz (Megan Campbell), and Hunyak (Liz Lester) stomp, kick, and viciously emote the hell out of the number.
Christina Wells plays Matron “Mama” Morton with the perfect mix of compassion and zero bullshit tolerance. She tells it like it is in “When You’re Good to Mama” and plays the mother hen in stilettos with a switch delightfully.
Wells and Floyd have a playful energy, each with their own level of admiration for the other. This connection is best seen in the glorious number lamenting the departure of “Class” in society. There’s nothing more hilarious than two corrupt broads sitting and commiserating about the fall of good manners. Floyd and Wells work seamlessly off one another, and their ironic song lands perfectly with ecstatic laughter and applause with the final, uber-classy line of “Holy shit, what a shame. What became of class?”
Playing the charming Billy Flynn is Jeff Brooks. The silver-tongued lawyer is introduced in first-class fashion, surrounded by beautiful women impatiently awaiting his arrival and later framing him with the classic, gorgeous white feather fans as he sings “All I Care About.” Brooks does an excellent job skirting the line between smooth talker and smarmy snake.
“We Both Reached for the Gun” is another standout number (Who am I kidding? They’re all standout). The choreo in this number is incredibly interwoven and complicated but the ensemble hits every beat with flawless execution. The result is a mesmerizing scene of controlled chaos that Brooks’ Flynn conducts with glee.
And I must mention G. A. James as Mary Sunshine. Lord what pipes!
Broadway at the National’s Chicago is a fantastic production of Kander and Ebb’s classic musical about our society’s obsession with debauchery, sensationalism, and fame. And the show only gets better with age as we are still a society steeped in infatuation with the morally depraved.
Is it a sad state for mankind that a show, based on a play of the same name by Maurine Dallas Watkins centered around the 1924 murder trials she reported on, still finds its sensationalism and glorification of crime and murder relatable today in 2022? Sure. But if we can’t step back and laugh, realizing our own absurdity, what truly is the point of it all?
And theater, as always, is a place of reflection, commentary, experimentation, and expectation, satisfying the pleasures of sight, sound, and feeling all at once. What we take away from that experience, and how we move forward, is entirely up to us. So enjoy a guilt-free trip into the nefarious world of Chicago, rife with sex and lies. Then go home and take a cold shower.
Chicago is recommended for ages 13 and older. Tickets range from $55 to $125.
Running Time: Approximately two hours 30 minutes, including one intermission.
Chicago plays through November 27, 2022, at the National Theatre located at 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($55–$125) are available online or by calling the box office at (202) 628-6161.
COVID Policy: Masks are strongly recommended but not required for all ticket holders. For full COVID protocol, go here.
Cast: LOGAN FLOYD (Velma Kelly), KATIE FRIEDEN (Roxie Hart), JEFF BROOKS (Billy Flynn), BRIAN KALINOWSKI (Amos Hart), CHRISTINA WELLS (Matron “Mama” Morton), G. A. JAMES (Mary Sunshine), MICHELLE ATTARDO (Swing/Dance Captain), LINCOLN BELFORD (Aaron/Amos Hart Understudy), CATE BENIOFF (Swing), MEGAN CAMPBELL (Liz/Matron “Mama” Morton Understudy), TONY CARRUBBA (Courtroom Clerk/Doctor/Mary Sunshine Understudy), JESS DIFORTE (June/Velma Kelly Understudy), ROBERT GARRIS AKA SHAPIRO (Sergeant Fogarty/Martin Harrison), ED GOTTHELF (Fred Casely), JASMINE JANAE (Annie), TAL KEDEM (Harry), LIZ LESTER (Hunyak), CHASE MCFADDEN (Swing/Dance Captain), SAMMY TUCHMAN (Go-to-Hell-Kitty), ASHER VAN METER (The Judge/Billy Flynn & Fred Casely Understudy), JORDAN VASQUEZ (Bailiff/The Jury), EVY VAUGHAN (Mona/Roxie Hart Understudy)
Orchestra: Conductor- Cameron Blake Kinnear, Drums- Jason Chafatelli
Local Musicians: Reed 1- Andy Axelrad; Reed 2- Ed Walters; Reed 3- Chris Reardon; Trumpet 1/Flugel- Craig Taylor; Trumpet 2- Kenny Rittenhouse; Trombone- Joe Jackson; Guitar- Gerry Kunkel; Tuba/Bass- Arnold Gottlieb; Piano- Jacob Kidder
Production Team: Music, Book/Lyrics- John Kander & Fred Ebb; Book- Bob Fosse; Original Director- Walter Bobbie; Original Choreographer- Ann Reinking, Set Design- John Lee Beatty; Costume Designer- William Ivey Long; Lighting Designer- Ken Billington; Sound Design- Scott Lehrer; Re-creation of Original Production Direction- Tania Nardini; Re-creation of Original Choreography- Gary Chryst; Resident Director/Assistant Choreographer- Camden Loeser; Script Adaptation- David Thompson; Music Supervision- Robert Billig; Music Coordinator- JP Meyer; Music Director- Cameron Blake Kinnear; Tour Booking Agency- The Booking Group; Resident Company Manager- Marc Ciemiewicz; Tour Company Manager- Timothe Bittle; Casting- Stewart/Whitley; Associate Producer- Lauren L. Sobon; Executive Producer- William T. Prather; Producer- Apex Touring, Production Stage Manager- Bethany Sortman, Dance Music Arrangements- Peter Howard; Vocal Arrangements- Rob Fisher