The Sunday matinée of Burlington County Footlighters’ CHICAGO was hot, sexy, stylish, smart, and in every way, sensational. It featured great choreography, dynamic musical theatre performers, a talented ensemble, and a phenomenal set–all the makings for a terrific show.
The theater said CHICAGO was sold out already and I’m not surprised. After all, CHICAGO is a well-known musical, having been made into an Academy Award-winning film as well as a long-running Broadway show, and word gets around–especially if it’s a great show.
CHICAGO was first produced in 1975 and ran for 936 performances; it was revived in 1996 and is still running today. Made into a film, it won the Best Film Oscar for 2002. With such a track record, you can also be disappointed with local production, but not this one. When I saw the touring show of CHICAGO, I don’t remember it being this good.
From the compact stage, the creatively constructed set was on two levels to resemble both inside and outside complete with neon signs, and inside with plenty of room to dance. The Bob Fosse-style choreography requires it. In fact, the dancing and costuming combined with consistent stylistic acting make the show work unbelievably well. A couple of the dance numbers are Bob Fosse originals, but this entire show is so well-directed and choreographed by Brenda Marie Kelly (also in the ensemble) that it is mesmerizing with the style and the heat necessary for a hip and a hit CHICAGO.
If you’ve never attended a show at BCF, you’ll see the stadium seating in the auditorium. A small-width but deep stage makes the usable acting space more of a square, allowing for plenty of upstage action.
Jim Frazer’s set design maximizes the movement possibilities on the BCF stage and the theatre company uses every inch it can–plus off stage where it can get away with it. The set decoration with neon lights for marquis and other signs are a stylistic plus.
It may have even been the smaller stage and wonderful set design, and the more intimate connection with the audience that made this stylish musical more successful than even the professional touring show for me. The travelling CHICAGO show I saw had much more dancing and acting space and didn’t use it.
The BCF cast was a perfect blend of personalities and types–all top-notch musical theatre performers–able to deliver on each “triple threat:” acting, singing and dancing. CHICAGO requires super dancers as well. Somehow, Director Brenda Marie Kelly found them for this thoroughly entertaining show.
Elizabeth Deal’s “Velma Kelly,” and Tamlyn Brooke Orlando’s “Roxy” were each sexy, steamy, funny, and charismatic in a beautiful “Chicago-style.” I found both very appealing. Brad Kenney’s self-deprecating “Amos Hart” was a cute and sympathetic puppy to an adoring audience. Gabrielle Affleck as “Matron Mama Morton” and Steve Phillips as “Billy Flynn” did a credible job with their characters as well.
I like to mention standout performers, but I miss some, too. So, if I mention you by name, it just means you stood out at some point. It works both ways though. You obviously did a great job. I could have noticed “stand-out” flaws, too. Little mistakes aren’t worth mentioning if they take nothing away from the show. If you didn’t get mentioned, it also doesn’t mean you made a mistake either. If you were a part of the atmosphere and did your usual stupendous job at it, you added immeasurably to the success of the scene, and the show. It’s just not practical to mention everyone by name when a show this size succeeds so well.
Timing and rhythm is everything in a good musical and can make or break a show. The cast and ensemble in this performance were so synchronized in their movements, every scene flowed swiftly and smoothly as they should.
The live music, sound and lighting deserve credit as well. Kudos, everyone, for a great show.
If you don’t have tickets, get on the waiting list in case someone gets sick. This is not a musical to miss.
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Directed by Brenda Marie Kelly
May 6-21, 2011
Burlington County Footlighters
808 Pomona Rd
Cinnaminson, NJ 08077