The bad girls are very good in “Chicago.” So is the dancing, in the new touring production of Kander and Ebb’s wickedly funny Jazz Age musical that opened at the Orpheum Theatre last Friday.
If a bit of the razzle-dazzle seems to have gone missing in this latest revival, there’s still enough vibrant acting, singing and dancing to light up the stage.
A lurid tale of “murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery,” the musical wasn’t a big hit when it opened on Broadway in 1975. Yet its sly take on legal corruption and the American obsession with instant celebrity has made it a durable creation.
Director David Hyslop, re-creating Walter Bobbie’s original New York staging, gives the show a snappy pacing on John Lee Beatty’s set, which serves both the prison scenes and the courtroom drama. The orchestra, conducted by Robert Billig, is seated onstage in a tiered platform. The well-cast ensemble brings the songs and dances to life in scene after scene.
This “Chicago” is most impressive in its female leads. As Roxie Hart, Bianca Marroquin is a petite dynamo, one who purrs, struts, and seduces with polished flair as the killer chorine on trial for her life. She’s well-matched with Terra C. MacLeod’s Velma Kelly. Tall, blonde, and brassy, MacLeod is a strong, athletic dancer, and she delivers Velma’s numbers with a steely, sardonic edge.
There are workmanlike performances throughout the cast. Big-voiced Roz Ryan belts “Mama” Morton’s “When You’re Good to Mama” and blends nicely with MacLeod in the Act II number “Class.” Jacob Keith Watson’s rumpled Amos Hart takes a polished turn with “Mr. Cellophane,” and C. Newcomer flutters convincingly as Mary Sunshine.
The cast’s weak link is John O’Hurley, whose bland Billy Flynn never comes to life. O’Hurley, best-known for his long-running role as Peterman on “Seinfeld,” cuts a suave figure onstage. But he lacks the lawyer’s sleazy drive, particularly in his big Act II number, “Razzle Dazzle.”
The dancing, on the other hand, is consistently thrilling. Choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse, and recreated here by David Bushman, it’s a distinctive mix of jazz steps, and this production’s corps de ballet, dressed in William Ivey Long’s slinky costumes, brings it to life in every hip thrust, head toss, and scissor step. From “All That Jazz,” which opens the show, to the Finale, the ensemble work is a powerful reminder of why we loved “Chicago” in the first place.
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.
When: Daily, through Sunday
Tickets: $40 to $210
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com