An impressive production of CHICAGO brings a perfect commentary on current times

Shannon Self seeks fame as chorine Roxie Hart, Michael Mulcahy charms as slick lawyer Billy Flynn and Mary Kalita struts as vaudevillian Velma Kelly. Photo: Chris Ayers

The famous musical Chicago might be even more relevant today than when it was first produced on stage decades ago.  These days we move smoothly from Britney’s craziness to Tiger’s shenanigans to Lindsay’s legal woes to Charlie’s “winning”…  and no one really cares what these people have done, we just shell out our hard earned cash to hear stories of tiger blood and porn stars.  Until the next train wreck hits.  As the show says, “What the hell does innocence got to do with it?”

Marquee Productions presentation of Chicago, now playing at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose, is definitely not a train wreck, and still perfectly mirrors our current fascination with celebrity.  I can remember attending at least eight different live performances of Chicago in my life, plus the film, and it is still one of my very favorite shows.  Of course, it’s hard to mess up a show that revolves around sex and murder, with a stage full of scantily clad women and men thrusting and grinding to the Fosse style choreography.  This particular production, put on by Marquee Productions as a benefit for the Children’s Musical Theater, is not only a decidedly adult show that entertains on every level, but it really showcases the talents of the performers who have graduated from our own CMT.

Assistant Choreographer Kikau Alvaro strikes an iconic pose. Photo: Chris Ayers

Michael Mulcahy, who started with CMT forty years ago, is absolutely the star of this production as Billy Flynn.  He has an excellent stage presence and voice, and just the right touch of sinister smarminess.  He is possibly the best Billy Flynn I’ve ever seen.  Mary Kalita and Shannon Self also shine as Velma and Roxie, respectively, and I felt they presented a more realistic version of their characters than I have seen before.  In previous productions it always seemed that Velma was the established Vaudeville star, with Roxie the upstart newcomer. In this production they are presented on more equal footing, realizing – as in real life – that “established” means nothing, it’s all about the press of the day.  That is exactly what this show is about, so I’m very impressed to see this slightly new feel with Velma and Roxie.

At first I felt that Amos, played by Michael Johnson, was a little weak, but then he presented “Mr. Cellophane”.  His character came strongly to life with this song, as it should, and his excellent talents in this scene really emphasized the purpose with which he underplayed the role in the first act.  He was fantastic.  Also fantastic was D. Jaques, who played Mary Sunshine to transvestite perfection.  Kudos to Marquee Productions for including the cross dressed character and really not shying away from any of the adult themes.

Breana Taylor vamps as Annie. Photo: Chris Ayers

Kudos also go to the rest of the cast including the cell block and male dancers.  I could hardly take my eyes off Cynthia Pariente and Sarah Marino of the sexy cell block, and my guest was quite impressed with Breana Taylor.  But we were both impressed and quite enjoyed the entire cast of male dancers as well.  Although they were mostly chorus dancers, they were quite amazing and helped round out this production to the highest enjoyment level.

A huge thank you to director/choreographer Kevin R. Hauge for putting on this thoroughly entertaining show.  It was one of the most fun nights I’ve had in theater in recent memory.

All tickets are $30, and the small Montgomery Theater makes every seat a good one.  The show is a benefit for our local Children’s Musical Theater, and this production of adult performers shows what excellent training comes through the CMT. There are baskets at the exit doors for donations as well, and my guest and I dug into our purses to find every last scrap of cash we had.  It is definitely a worthwhile cause.

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A Marquee Production

 

Chicago
Through April 23
Montgomery Theater
271 S. Market Street, San Jose
Tickets available at www.cmtsj.org or call 408-792-4111
Use promo code LUVIT for $5 off each ticket

 

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