AURORA | As I watched the opening scene of “Chicago” at the Buell Theater, I quickly realized I was most likely the only person in the audience who had never seen the legendary Broadway hit.
While I was a newbie, it was clear from the get go that the audience that packed the Buell for opening night of the North American tour of the longest running hit on Broadway wasn’t there for a new experience. They were there to see the show they knew by heart performed by world-class talent.
Cheers erupted from the seats before the first notes of the first number, the classic “All that Jazz” had even been played. Jennifer Fouché, who played Matron “Mama” Morton, had to pause to let the applause die down when she walked on stage for the first time before singing the first note of “When You’re Good To Mama.”
I imagine this is what it’s like to see a Grateful Dead show, but with a more well dressed audience and no 30-minute long jam sessions.
But even an audience enamored with a show before the first bar is sung won’t let a subpar production slide. A production can only coast on an audience’s excitement for so long and then they’re going to want to be entertained.
Luckily for all the fanboys and fangirls in attendance, this show absolutely killed it. There was never a moment where I feared this show wasn’t going to entertain. The cast, featuring a bevy of talent that made their bones on Broadway, TV and film, is impeccable in every sense of the word. The dancing skills and vocal talent on display are worthy of a show that inspires such love from a worldwide audience.
For those who haven’t seen the show, “Chicago” centers around philandering Roxie Hart, played by Dylis Croman, on trial for murdering her lover when he walks out on her. Her defense is mounted by Billy Flynn, played by Jeff McCarthy, who plays the media and the jury like a fiddle as he creates a frenzy that makes Roxy the hero.
For a show written in the ‘70s, it’s somewhat disheartening to see the sendup of a culture obsessed with celebrity and scandal more than truth ring more true today than it did back when it first debuted.
Croman, McCarthy and Lana Gordon, playing Roxy’s rival in the media and the pen Velma Kelly, are the center of the show and all three show why they’re helming this tour. Croman swings effortlessly between conniving murderer and innocent victim, McCarthy brings a conman’s swagger and slickness to the role and Gordon plays her part with a mix of viciousness and desperation.
While those three burn up the stage, the entire cast is worthy of praise, especially Paul Vogt as Roxy’s cuckolded husband Amos. Vogt’s rendition of “Mister Cellophane,” Amos’s lament on being a completely inconsequential man, was both heartbreaking and beautifully performed.
“Chicago” is Broadway quality, from acting talent to production value. It would be worth a trip to New York City to catch it but luckily “Chicago” die hards won’t have to leave the Front Range to get their fix.
“Chicago” at the Buell Theater, Denver Center for Performing Arts
Playing now through Dec. 3
Tickets starting at $30. For information, visit bit.ly/2BmKtBn