Review: Shadowbox Live’s Chicago

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From the September 13, 2012 edition

Shadowbox Live’s musicals seem to fare best when the troupe is elevating something a little bit absurd to begin with, like recent smash “Reefer Madness.”

Taking on something as pedigreed as “Chicago” — winner of six Tony awards and an Oscar-winning film adaptation — seems like a bit of a risk, but the show is still just about two unrepentant murderers in 1920s Chicago, a narrative that fits right into Shadowbox’s wheelhouse.

Stacie Boord and Amy Lay are magnificent as Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, respectively, but the edge may have to go to Boord. The sad desperation that accompanies songs like “I Can’t Do It Alone” and “When Velma Takes the Stand” are a joy to watch, even as Velma breaks under Roxie’s rising notoriety.

JT Walker III brings smarmy bravado to Roxie’s lawyer Billy Flynn. When trying to gain some sympathy from prospective jurors, Billy uses a bit of brilliant verbal gymnastics to convince Roxie’s dolt of a husband (Robbie Nance) that he should divorce her even though he still loves her.

Co-directors Stev Guyer and Julie Klein deserve a lot of credit for their staging of two showstopper numbers. The first, “The Cell Block Tango,” is a dimly-lit retelling of six murders, and bonus points go out to Anita McFarren for bringing the Hungarian to Hunyak.

The second, “We Both Reached for the Gun,” has Billy putting his own words into Roxie (Lay is perfect here as his puppet) as he persuades the press that she’s repentant and not just another cold-blooded murderer.

Credit: Shadowbox Live