Chicago is Ill

When a hit Broadway play becomes a major motion picture, it either tanks (The Producers) or soars (Chicago). The aftershock of the film version’s success is that the stage version of Chicago is far less impressive.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre welcomed back the Tony Award-winning musical for a three-day stint last Friday through Sunday.

Roxie Hart (Michelle DeJean) aspires to be a vaudeville dancer in the 1920s and is thwarted by a tiny incident involving a murderer-herself. Hart meets an assortment of characters in jail, including the booking agent Matron “Mama” Morton (Carol Woods) and fellow vaudevillian/murdereress Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod). Lawyer Billy Flynn (Tom Wopat) promises to get Hart off of the chopping block (for a fee, of course) by making her out to be the poor victim of jazz and alcohol. A sexual favor here, a handful of lies there-and Hart is acquitted. Now, where are the photographers?

DeJean’s understated acting is appreciated in a time of over-exaggerated caricatures by actors who appear to be compensating for their limited acting ability. MacLeod is one such actor: while talented, her portrayal of Kelly was dry in dialogue and embellished in vocals. She exhibits as much charm to her rendering as that of Frasier’s dull Dr. Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth-who, incidentally, portrayed Kelly in 1996).

Wopat, best-known as Luke Duke on TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard, rests on his C-list celebrity status as his total support. His acting deficiency-or any semblance of life at all-is unfortunate, as Flynn’s witty one-liners are wasted.

The space on stage is limited by the orchestra, which serves as the axis around which the action occurs. While the interaction between the orchestra members and the musical’s characters is entertaining, the dance sequences are restricted. Impressive dance numbers and elaborate costumes are possible for the stage, but this extravagance is inexplicably done without. The Walter Bobbie-directed musical features revealing black lingerie for costumes, which is perhaps too risqu? for the children in attendance.

Chicago is one instance in which the film is actually better than the play. Save yourself $20 next time and buy the movie; at least Catherine Zeta-Jones is hot.