Disappointing trip to ‘Chicago’

Bay Area favorite Lewis fails to deliver in latest production

In Act II of “Chicago” the production’s leading man, the infamously smarmy attorney, Billy Flynn, offers the sagest advice to his client, the surly Roxie Hart.

“Give ‘em the old razzle dazzle/ Razzle Dazzle ‘em/Give ‘em an act with lots of flash in it/And the reaction will be passionate/Give ‘em the old hocus pocus/Bead and feather ‘em.”

That advice was seemingly lost on Wednesday night’s cast of the touring production of “Chicago,” the Fred Ebb and John Kander musical, originally directed and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse,which won the world over in 1975.

From the moment the show’s notorious vixen Velma Kelly made her grand entrance with crowd favorite “All that Jazz,” it became clear that this particular production of “Chicago” was missing something.

The explosive emotion this number demands was considerably muted.

Velma is supposed to be the show’s force to be reckoned with; the sultry underdog who oozes charisma, who commands, and who dictates. But Terra C. MacLeod’s interpretation of the part had an uncanny similarity to that of Janice Dickinson.

MacLeod’s Velma’s eventual fall from grace felt more slapstick, with MacLeod going for the big laughs, rather than showcasing the character’s sad and desperate attempt to regain her celebrity footing.

Michelle DeJean does Hart justice and proves an amazing physical actress. During “We Both Reached For The Gun,” a definite bright spot in the otherwise drab production, in which Hart becomes attorney Flynn’s ventriloquist dummy, DeJean’s timing was impeccable and wonderful.

And, oh how we hate to say it, but the much-awaited Bay Area debut of Huey Lewis as Flynn, also fell flat.

Lewis has a good voice, but it was clear Wednesday night that the recording star’s scratchy vocals, while fantastic for rock ’n’ roll, aren’t so much for Broadway. He had trouble projecting over the show’s orchestra.

Also, Lewis was too darn likeable to be the conniving Flynn.

Technically, the cast did everything it was supposed to do. Dance numbers were flawless.

But, making things tricky is the show’s set design, which features a multi-tiered bandstand that takes up probably 90 percent of the stage. Such a large structure monopolizing the stage proved prohibitive of Ann Reinking’s Fosse-inspired choreography.

Executed to near perfection, the dance numbers lost a bit of their dynamics because of the on-stage orchestra, which meant choreography could really only be staged with singular stage left-stage right motion. Using any of the stage’s depth or its design was rather impossible

In between major dance numbers, the ensemble cast had no choice but to sit in chairs alongside the bandstand, pushing the cast out of sight. They looked like extras waiting for a casting call, not an ensemble cast.

Written with dry, sharp-witted humor, the cast seemed undecided as to whether to buffoon or lampoon “Chicago’s” biting satire.

The talent in this production is there, it just needs to be coming from the gut, not only the high kicks.

Stage review

Chicago ??

When: Playing through Nov. 5

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St. San Francisco

Price: Tickets are $25-$85

Info: Call (415) 512-7770 or visit www.bestofbroadway-sf.com

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