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Razzle-dazzle at the Fisher

By |2006-02-23T09:00:00-05:00February 23rd, 2006|Entertainment|

Review: ‘Chicago’

Sexy guys, sizzling gals heat up ‘Chicago’

“Nobody walks out on me,” Roxie Hart screams to her soon-to-be ex-lover, Fred Casely, as she pumps multiple bullets into him during the opening moments of “Chicago,” the sizzling hot musical playing at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre through March 5. The stone-faced couple sitting next to me on opening night weren’t listening, however, since they high-tailed it out of the Fisher moments before intermission and never came back. (At least they didn’t suffer the same fate as Fred.)
But that was their loss, not Roxie’s, since what they missed was one of the sexiest and most entertaining second acts to hit the Fisher stage in ages. (The people sitting directly behind the pair were pleased, I’m sure, since the strikingly tall woman had big hair and an even bigger hat that she wouldn’t remove. People, where are your manners?)
The Tony Award-winning musical is based on a 1926 comedy by a former Chicago Tribune reporter who wrote tongue-in-cheek reports about the sensational murder trials of Beaulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. Beaulah became Roxie and Belva became Velma Kelly – and the play became as popular as the courtroom dramas it portrayed. Not only did it spawn a handful of movies, but “Chicago” has become one of the most successful musicals ever to hit the Broadway stage.
It’s not hard to understand the musical’s broad appeal. With memorable tunes by John Kander and Fred Ebb, you can’t help but leave the theater humming a song or two. (I couldn’t get “All That Jazz” out of my head for days.) Add to that the Bob Fosse-influenced choreography – as well as the hot men and sexy women who bring it to life – and the result is a formula that just can’t miss.
A chorus girl with big dreams and a bigger libido, Roxie finds herself in the Cook County Jail after her initial story – Fred was a burglar and her husband, Amos, killed him – falls apart. (Even frumpy men don’t like learning from the police that their wife was cheating on them.) It doesn’t take long to see how life behind bars works: If you scratch Matron “Mama” Morton’s palms, she’ll grease yours. So when Roxie discovers that fellow murderess and inmate Velma will most assuredly be acquitted and be back starring in Vaudeville, Roxie wants a piece of the action.
And what Roxie wants, well, you get the idea.
But does Robin Givens – who came to Detroit directly from the Broadway cast – have the chops to play Roxie, you might be asking yourself? She sure does. In fact she fills Roxie with, forgive the pun, heart. Not only can the beautiful actress play this role convincingly, she can also move with the best of them. (And yes, her singing voice is solid, although not spectacular.)
Rather, it’s long-legged Terra C. MacLeod – Velma – who owns the spectacular voice. She cranks up the heat early on with “Cell Block Tango” and doesn’t stop until – with Givens – “Hot Honey Rag.”
Both murderesses are represented by slick, money-hungry attorney Billy Flynn, played with perfection by Obba Babatunde. “All I Care About” is his first knockout number, but not his last.
Also noteworthy are Carol Woods (as the Matron) and Kevin Carolan (Amos) who will certainly break your heart with “Mister Cellophane.”
The only slightly down beat is the operatic voice of R. Bean. Although the performer has a lot of fun playing reporter Mary Sunshine, it’s sometimes impossible to understand what Mary is singing. (But, Mary! Can she hit those high notes!)
It’s not often that a show’s utility players – the chorus – deserve high praise, but without them, “Chicago” is barely half the fun. Everything about these sexy and scantily clad singers and dancers is perfect, from their tight bodies to their performance skills. And if I had to give an award for “best booty” – which he gladly jiggles for us only moments after the show begins – it would go to Gregory Butler (the aforementioned and very dead Fred). Wow!
“Chicago” runs Tue.-Sun. at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd, Detroit, through March 5. Tickets: $32.50-$72.50. For information: 313-872-1000 or
The Bottom Line: It’s “all that jazz” – and more!

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