Musical ‘Chicago’ an absolute winner in Nevada City
With the musical “Chicago,” Sierra Stages has outdone itself — this show is as near perfect as a non-professional theater group can present. In fact, it is superior to many professional troupes’ performances. On opening night, people were raving about the show.
The original 1975 musical of “Chicago” was set in prohibition-era Chicago and based on a dramatic play written in 1926 by Maurine Dallas Watkins, a journalist who covered the actual trials of two female murderers — both were acquitted. The musical had lyrics by Fred Ebb, music by John Kandar, book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, and direction and choreography by Fosse (of “Cabaret” fame). But because of its dark subject matter, it received mixed reviews.
Then in 1996, New York City Center’s Encores! series presented “Chicago” in a well-received, stripped-down concert version, which was subsequently expanded and brought to Broadway that same year, collecting critical and public praise; it won six Tony Awards and has run continuously on Broadway ever since.
The lead characters are Velma Kelly, a vaudeville performer who killed her husband and sister (found together in bed); Roxie Hart, a married woman and chorus girl who killed her unfaithful lover; and Billy Flynn, a slick, flamboyant lawyer who specializes in obtaining favorable jury verdicts for his felonious female clients. “Razzle Dazzle,” is Billy’s circus-like musical commentary about the ease with which the public can be duped into believing almost anything.
Director Robert Rossman’s decision to present the action in vaudeville-like vignettes allows story development without the scenes appearing disconnected, since there aren’t scenery changes and actors flow onto and off the stage for each vignette. There is much singing and dancing, and the stellar 20 member cast handles every song, dance and action with confidence and style. The voices are exceptional, the dancing adventurous, the acting compelling and the timing superb. Epitomizing the excellence is the press conference for Roxie that becomes a ventriloquist act, with Billy verbalizing the words while he manipulates Roxie’s body (as she mouths the words) and the press members dance around, writing the latest version of “the truth.”
Kate Haight as Velma and Jacquelynn Kolenko as Roxie are sexy and fabulous — great voices, facial expressions, dance moves — the real deal. Jonathan Hansard as Billy masterfully works his role — he’s oily and suave at the same time. Aiding this trio, Micah Cone, as Roxie’s husband Amos, does a sterling rendition of “Mister Cellophane.” Sara Noah as Matron “Mama” Morton is appropriately manipulative but caring, with great vocal pipes. And Janet Rossman’s portrayal of the Pollyannaish reporter, Mary Sunshine, is spot on, sweet voice and all.
The entire production staff deserves kudos. Creative, bold and fluid direction by Rossman. Praiseworthy musical direction of the 14 talented on-stage band members by Ken Getz. Jazzy and sexy dance direction by George Jayne. Visually arresting scenic design by Peter Mason. Costume and hair design by Leslie Dilloway that is clever — for its multifunctional use — as well as beautiful. Striking and technically noteworthy lighting design by Erin Beatie and Devin Cameron Jewett. And superbly enhancing sound design by Peter A. Mason and Tim Miller.
A word of advice — if you don’t buy tickets soon to this excellent show, you’ll be very disappointed when all performances are sold out. Unequivocally, run — don’t walk — to the Nevada Theatre before the show ends on Aug. 5.
Because Hindi Greenberg can’t sing or act (although she can dance a bit), she greatly admires those who seem to do so easily. However, she’s sad that the line in the play that “things will be different in 50 years” hasn’t come to pass — the slick continue to manipulate and the public can still be manipulated.
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