Sizzling and Sassy: CHICAGO at The Wilmington Drama League

by Jessica Graae

The Wilmington Drama League’s production of CHICAGO is vastly entertaining. Created by John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics), it debuted on Broadway in 1975 and had a smashingly successful revival run in the 1990’s. The production is directed by Matt Casarino and choreographed by Jody Anderson, with music direction by Steven Weatherman and conducting by Christopher Tolomeo.

Cast members from Wilmington Drama Leagues's CHICAGO, playing through November 13.

Barbara Wright brings the house down as Velma and All the Jazz is every bit the showstopper. A triple-threat singer/actor/dancer, Wright reveals human side of this conniving character. Vying for Velma’s roost in the prison is Roxie (Ashley Harris), a selfish, paparazzi-loving woman, who is tormented by her own failures as an actress. Harris gets the vaudeville actress just right, with her excellent performance and comic timing. In Me and My Baby, she shines, as the men dance behind her in oversized diapers.

As Billy Flynn, Jeffrey Santoro doles out the perfect combination of sleaze and wit. In his courtroom song, We Both Reached for the Gun, Roxie, his client, is the dummy sitting on his lap, mouthing his words. Flynn isn’t shy about revealing what a scoundrel he is – not only does he feed his client testimony on the stand, he lets her fall to a humiliating pile on the floor, making no move to help her up. Clearly, this is a jab at lawyers and the justice system.

Cell Block Tango is a clever weave of snappy choreography, rhythms, and song. Each murderer tells the story of her husband’s maddening behavior- from Bernie’s incessant gum-popping, to Wilbur’s jealous rages which are met with a kitchen knife – TEN TIMES. All of these men: “They had it coming!”

A woman’s prison would be incomplete without a dominatrix. Matron Mama Morton (Rebecca Gallatin) plays the inmates against each other and engages them in bribery. She does a fine job with When You’re Good to Mama and we are left wondering exactly what kind of favors she’s talking about. T.L. Banks makes a terrific Mary Sunshine, with a sparkling voice and good stage presence. As Amos, Roxie’s pathetic, shafted husband, Edward Elder gains our sympathy in Mr. Cellophane.

Anderson’s choreography is sharp, witty and well executed by the talented ensemble, whose singing is equally strong. Leading the small orchestra, singing and playing the trumpet, Tolomeo is charming and precise. Perched up high behind the stage, the musicians are still easily heard. Be sure to catch this winner! It runs through November 13, 2010.

Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Directed by Matt Casarino
October 29 – November 13, 2010
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE

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