Reagle’s ‘Chicago’ a worthy tribute to Fosse

 

Angie Schworer as Roxie and Rick Pessagno as Billy Flynn give the press the scoop in “Chicago” at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston June 13-23, 617 Lexington Street, Waltham. (Photo: Herb Philpott)

Angie Schworer as Roxie and Rick Pessagno as Billy Flynn give the press the scoop in “Chicago” at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston June 13-23, 617 Lexington Street, Waltham. (Photo: Herb Philpott)

WALTHAM — There’s no faking Fosse.
The late actor/director/choreographer Bob Fosse’s stylized choreography is almost instantly recognizable, so much so that it spawned a hit Broadway show of its own — “Fosse.”
Perhaps the best example of his work is the musical “Chicago,“ which on Aug. 27, 2011, became the longest-running American musical in Broadway history — as a revival that began in 1996!
The musical with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb is opening the
45th season for the Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston at the Robinson Theatre at Waltham High School through June 23.
“Chicago” is described as a “musical vaudeville,” actually a series of musical scenes depicting murder and mayhem among “celebrity criminals” in a wide-open Chicago of the 1920s, based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins.
The best thing about this production is Angie Schworer’s sassy, saucy Roxie Hart, who murdered her lover but is hoping to both avoid jail and hit the vaudeville circuit. Schworer is up to the task in all aspects of the role.
Sara Gettelfinger as Velma Kelly appeared to be struggling at times with the physical demands of the role — those wireless mikes are merciless when it comes to picking up huffing and puffing and Fosse’s choreography will do that to you.
It might be unfair, but I set my bar high for the role of the crooked mouthpiece Billy Flynn, having seen talents ranging from the role’s creator, the late Jerry Orbach, to most recently John O’Hurley, sing the ultra-cynical “All I Care About is Love.”
Here Rick Pessagno is in their mold, at his best when playing the puppeteer to Roxie’s puppet as he shapes Roxie’s defense in the number “We Both Reached for the Gun” and in the production number “Razzle Dazzle.”
There’s no denying Maryann Zschau’s acting and singing chops and she does a creditable job on “When You’re Good to Mama,” but an actress playing such as outsized character Matron “Mama” Morton should be more physically imposing, especially while overseeing a stable of murderesses.
Rick Sherburne showed a nice comic touch in his portrayal of Roxie’s hapless husband Amos Hart, but his rendition of “Mister Cellophane” — usually a highlight of any production of “Chicago” — just never seemed to catch fire.
Kudos to P Mill for a spot-on turn as the feel-good “sob sister” journalist Mary Sunshine.
Gerry McNamara’s direction and choreography in the style of Fosse succeeds thanks to a very strong ensemble of dancers, led by dance captain Jaclyn Miller. “Cell Block Tango” is a first-act highlight.
The philosophy of Reagle’s founder and producing artistic director, Bob Eagle, is to respect the composer’s score, and give the music director — here Dan Rodriguez, with Jeremy Fenn-Smith conducting the onstage orchestra — the resources to let the public hear the score in all its glory.
So enjoy the horn solos in the glorious jazzy, bluesy Kander and Ebb score. The Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston continues to offer great value for the entertainment dollar, at an easy-to-reach location with free parking, and this show is no exception.
The Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s production of “Chicago.” Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. Directed and choreographer by Gerry McIntyre in the style of Bob Fosse. At the Robinson Theatre through June 23. Reaglemusictheatre.org.

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