Musicals are rarely cynical, but then there is Chicago, a snarky look at our justice system as seen through a pair of accused murderesses awaiting trial in the Cook County jail, circa the late 1920s.
Perhaps the show’s appeal stems more from its Bob Fosse-inspired choreography and its John Kander-Fred Ebb score than from the snide script Fosse co-wrote with lyricist Ebb. But whatever the reason, the concert-style revival at the Kravis Center this week is a road company of the longest-running American show in Broadway history.
The show’s tone is set from the start, with the statement that we are about to see “a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery – all those things we all hold near and dear to our hearts.” As Ira Gershwin once wrote, “Who could ask for anything more?”
The original 1975 production of Chicago, which focuses its jaundiced eye on celebrity homicide, may have been a little before its time. But the revival – an outgrowth of City Center’s Encores series – arrived while the O.J. Simpson murder trial was in the Zeitgeist. And today, as a certain 91-times-charged former president is testing his star power in court, could Chicago be any more timely?
The good news is that the production at the Kravis Center is in fine shape, with a terrific ensemble up to the challenges of Fosse’s signature idiosyncratic, angular, sexually charged dance moves and a pair of female leads — Katie Frieden (Roxie Hart) and Kailin Brown (Velma Kelly) — who positively kill, pardon the expression. So if you have seen Chicago before and are wondering whether to return for another look, there is no reason to hesitate,
To its show’s creators, show business is a metaphor for everything. So they seized on a 1942 Ginger Rogers movie and injected it with a dozen and a half brazenly presentational numbers, many of them homages to vaudeville. Some — like “All That Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango” and “Razzle Dazzle” — have had lives outside of the show, but there really isn’t a bad song in the bunch.
Kander and Ebb give the supporting cast members each a juicy spotlight number, and they return the favor with gusto. Think of mercenary attorney Billy Flynn (Connor Sullivan, “All I Care About”), prison matron with connections to the William Morris Agency, Mama Morton (Illeana Kirven, “When You’re Good to Mama”), high-pitched sob sister journalist Mary Sunshine (J. Terrell, “A Little Bit of Good”) and Roxie’s gullible sap hubby, Amos (Robert Quiles, “Mister Cellophane”).
As on Broadway, the unit set isn’t much, but William Ivey Long’s skimpy costumes are a knockout. And Cameron Blake Kinnear conducts a scorching hot 10-piece onstage band that makes the faux-period musical score sizzle.
Cynicism never looked or sounded so good.
CHICAGO, Kravis Center Dreyfoos Hall, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Through Sunday, Nov. 12. $34-$104. 561-832-7469 or visir www.kravis.org.