Chicago Continues to Razzle Dazzle Audiences With All Its Jazz

Chicago Continues to Razzle Dazzle Audiences With All Its Jazz

There’s a reason why Chicago is the second longest-running Broadway musical of all time. Two reasons, actually: John Kander and Fred Ebb. Though the show is firmly set in the 1920s, their music and lyrics are timeless. “All That Jazz” is one of the most recognizable opening numbers of all time and definitely among the sexiest.

Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart were the original reality stars—desperate to keep their names in the papers with whatever gimmicks they can come up with—but Chicago’s latest leading ladies have earned their right to shine. Seasoned Broadway performer Carly Hughes stuns as Velma, bringing both power and grace to the role. Her athleticism is as impeccable as her voice.

As for Roxie… the name on everybody’s lips is gonna be Nettles, Jennifer Nettles to be precise. The country music dynamo makes her Broadway debut as the murdering adulteress and shines brighter than those silver heels she wears at her court appearance. This is a perfect role for Nettles and showcases her ability to command a stage and make you want to listen. Like Hughes, Nettles is a vocal force. Although their characters butt heads an awful lot, it is pure magic when they duet.

While Hughes and Nettles are the headlining acts, they are surrounded by a solid ensemble who help keep the show fresh and exciting. NaTasha Yvette Williams kills it as Matron Mama Morton. The keeper of the keys might not be one of the merry murderesses, but she sure as hell slays “When You're Good to Mama.” Raymond Bokhour is anything but “Mr. Cellophane” as Roxie’s naive but lovable husband, Amos Hart. He deserves every laugh he gets and I just wanted to run up on stage, give him a hug and tell his character he could do so much better if he believed in himself as much as the rest of us did. And then there’s Alexander Gemignani as the charismatic slime-ball lawyer, Billy Flynn. This was my third time seeing Gemignani on stage and a third memorable performance. I didn’t want to hug Billy Flynn, though… I kind of wanted to smack him.

I’m embarrassed that I’ve been going to Broadway shows for 10 years and only just now saw Chicago. I’m so glad I finally did because there is something truly magical about experiencing the show in person. (I saw the movie about a hundred times, okay?) Hearing that opening trumpet part go “wah wah waaaaaah wah wah wah wah wah waaaaaaah” sent shivers right up my arm. Hearing and seeing, rather, as the band is on stage for the entire show! They not only immediately set the mood, but are a vital part of what makes Chicago such an iconic musical. Same with Bob Fosse’s choreography. His original work is still used for the “Hot Honey Rag” and Ann Reinking choreographed the rest of the show in his style.

Chicago heats up the Ambassador eight shows a week and is one of the few shows that goes on on Monday nights. (Fewer crowds in the Theater District… just saying.) Snaps, kicks, thrusts and jazz hands are welcome. Catch Jennifer Nettles as Roxie Hart thru March 29.

Photo by Len Prince

Comments

The show was terrific and Jennifer Nettles nailed it as Roxie Hart! Her acting and facial expressions in "We Both Reached For the Gun" were spot on! Both she and Carly Hughes were perfect together. Hate to see Jennifer leave end of next week. Great dancing by all!

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