By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
March 15, 2000

You’d think that “Chicago”–which promises to tell the story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery–would be a bit of a downer.

But throw in a Tony Award winning score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, some sexy choreography by Ann Reinking and a couple of celebs well-known to sitcom fans, and you have a musical in which the overall flashiness cloaks the underlying darkness of the play’s theme: That you’re only as important as your last 15 minutes of fame.

“Chicago,” which opened Tuesday night at the Rosemont Theatre, introduces us to Velma Kelly (Vicki Lewis from “News Radio”) and Roxie Hart (Tracy Shayne). It’s the 1920s and they, like their fellow inmates, are accused of murdering their lovers. Neither one denies committing the crime.

Their media-seeking attorney Billy Flynn (Alan Thicke) doesn’t really care what they did, as long as they have the money to pay him and the charisma to remain on the front pages. Which is fine for his clients. As Roxy says, “I always wanted to have my name in the paper.”

It’s clear that once either element is gone, so, too, is Flynn. So the women compete and scheme and devise plans to prolong their infamy. After all, what’s the point in killing someone if no one notices?

TV celebrities don’t always translate well in theater. Anyone who saw lovely Teri Hatcher mangle the title song in “Cabaret” knows that. But Thicke and Lewis are comfortable in their roles.

Thicke–best remembered as the clueless dad on “Growing Pains”–unleashes just the right combination of smarmy smugness, as well as a strong set of pipes.

But it’s Lewis who is a revelation. A tiny powerhouse of a performer garbed in a tight black dress, she is all but unrecognizable. Showing off a dancer’s body and a smart black bob, Lewis strutted onstage and belted out the show’s first number, “All That Jazz.”

They are supported by a cast of superb performers, including Ray Bokhour as Roxy’s hapless husband Amos. The physical opposite of the impish Joel Grey, who played the role during the 1998 production of the show at the Shubert Theatre, Bokhour’s facial expressions and vocal inflections never failed to draw favorable reactions.

Under the direction of Walter Bobbie, “Chicago” moves at a quick pace. And while the plot doesn’t hold much shock value, the play drives home its point in an in-your-face, entertaining manner.


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