Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 16, 2012


Opera House Players, Broadbrook, CT
through February 26, 2012
by Walter Haggerty

“Murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery.” Add them up and the result is an explosive, extraordinary production of Kander and Ebb’s “Chicago” by the Opera House Players. This production is Broadway-worthy from start to finish.

From the first bars of the overture to the last crashing note of the finale, “Chicago” has audience members on the edge of their seats every minute that they aren’t standing and cheering. Director Becky Beth Benedict deserves special accolades for creating a seamless ensemble performance where even the smallest role is polished to perfection. The Fosse-esque choreography of Alison Bogatay, is an admirable reflection of the Fosse masterwork, without ever resorting to imitation.

As for the performers, they are incredible. Nicole R. Giguere as Velma, sets the mood for the performance with a knock-‘em dead delivery of “All That Jazz.” Wow, can that gal belt! She is backed up by a stellar troupe of multi-talented singer-dancers. Meg Fenton Funk squeezes every ounce of ego, anger, pathos, and petulance out of Roxie. With back-to-back numbers, “Roxie” by Funk and “I Can’t Do It Alone” Giguere, plus their duets of “My Own Best Friend” and “Nowadays,” this pair could revive vaudeville all by themselves.

In the role of Billy Flynn, Jeff Clayton is a perfect match for predecessors Jerry Orbach and James Naughton as the scheming, money-grabbing defense attorney. Kathi Such, as Matron Mama Morton, deservedly stops the show with  her performance of “When You’re Good to Mama.” Mike King, as Amos, Roxie’s naïve, two-timed, ever-loving husband, definitely gets noticed by the audience, especially for his “Mr. Cellophane” lament.

P. Stone’s Mary Sunshine is a gem of a performance by an actor finding the heart of a character and playing it for all it’s worth – and this one was worth every falsetto trill.

Kander and Ebb never ran away from a dark subject. With “Chicago” they achieved their greatest success and Opera House Players have given it an electrifying production that no true theatre lover should miss.