Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Arsht Center: Chicago (reviews)

The National Tour of Chicago is playing this week at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
... the show is still going strong. On Broadway, anyway.

On the road? Maybe not so much.
To the delight of some and the dismay of others, Colombian beauty SofĂ­a Vergara is making her Miami stage debut in the show as prison matron ''Mama'' Morton.
Casting a bombshell in a role customarily played by a heftier woman who communicates avarice and lust for the fame-hungry murderesses she calls her ''chickies'' is a choice. And we shouldn't be surprised that a show that has tried to boost its box office by featuring celebrity stars (think Lisa Rinna and hubby Harry Hamlin, Melanie Griffith, Usher, George Hamilton, Samantha Harris, Chandra Wilson) would consider bringing Vergara to Miami a no-brainer.
But the decision is also pandering, unfair to Vergara (who doesn't have the stage experience to believably exist in the show's sly, stylish world), to the theater-seasoned cast and anyone in the audience who might object to watching a novice at Broadway touring show prices.
Ouch! But Dolen makes an excellent point: this is the fifth week of Vergara's stage career, and the producers have callously plastered the picture of an actor who is playing a relatively minor role all over the production as if she's the Second Coming. But while Dolen bitch-slaps the producers for casting Vergara, it's not all that bad:

A funny, radiant Bryn Dowling is bouncy blond Roxie Hart, a gal who's only too happy to plug her lover Fred (Brent Heuser) and humiliate her sad-sack hubby Amos (Ron Orbach) to get her name in the papers. Terra C. MacLeod, who played Roxie's rival Velma when the tour hit the Broward Center three years ago, is still bringing Fosse style -- pinioned upper arms, a jutting pelvis, lightning-fast legs -- to the dancing that is her strong suit. And Broadway veteran Brent Barrett makes defense attorney Billy Flynn as irresistible as he is avaricious.

still has plenty going for it: a great Kander-Ebb score, sexy dancers, vibrant characters, an ever-resonant story. But the too-often broad and cartoonish production at the Arsht isn't wearing its age well.

Chicago plays through this Sunday at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

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