There is a pretty snazzy production of "Chicago" playing through March 17 in Boca Raton that sounds good, looks better, but never quite reaches the level of feeling as if it oughta be against the law.
Sure, it may seem a little out of place in the pristine Willow Theatre at Sugar Sand Park, but the staging by the Boca Raton Theatre Guild is impressive, if not razor sharp.
The show's creators, John Kander and Fred Ebb, would be proud of director Keith Garsson's and music director Eric Alsford's efforts. As for Bob Fosse's iconic, hunched-shoulder choreography so central to the show? Yup, that gets a respectable B-minus for effort, too, thanks to Ron Hutchins, who pulls off a miracle of movement here. It’s not Fosse, but it’s Fosse-adjacent.
Nope, that ain't it.
On the surface, the show seems to have it all: a nifty chorus, experienced leads and a five-piece band with plenty of camp in their vamp. The set by Sean McClelland and costumes by Carlos Toro do their share to take you out of Boca and land you in a burlesque nightclub, ageless and yet specifically vaudevillian.
Resonating more than it should in our modern-day, celebrity-obsessed culture, "Chicago" tells the tale through Roaring '20s song and dance of a couple of merry murderesses, Roxie Hart (Patti Gardner) and Velma Kelly (Krishna Marcano). Having separately landed in the Cook County Jail (never you mind how), the two flappers end up sharing oleaginous lawyer Billy Flynn (Avi Hoffman), after bribing the warden, Mama Morton (Sally Bondi).
And that's just the setup. What flows, oozes really, from that is what the announcer (Matt Korinko) calls a "classic tale of violence, envy, exploitation, adultery and treachery. All those things we hold near and dear to our hearts," as Flynn manipulates the lemming-like press and throws a little grit and a little grime into the wheels of justice.
What's missing: more grit and grime. In order to really vibrate with vitality, "Chicago" needs a feel of victimization and viciousness, a vision of craven desire grinding its tumescent crotch up against public decency. This is scandal lite, when it could easily be scandalicious.
Take the finale, when Roxie and Velma should be bringing it home in a burst of razzle-dazzle dancing. Up until then, this "Chicago" JUST manages to hold the audience in its thuggish grip for 2 1/2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission. But then, this last number just loses pep and goes more suburban than City of Big Shoulders.
But they are close, they are soooo close.
IF YOU GO
When: Through March 17; showtimes vary
Where: The Willow Theatre at Sugar Sand Park, 300 S. Military Trail, Boca Raton
Contact: 561-347-3948 or BRTG.org
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