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Posted Oct. 27, 2004


Entertaining ‘Chicago’ musical takes a lighter tone at PAC

By Steven Hyden
Post-Crescent staff writer

APPLETON — When “Chicago” premiered on Broadway almost 30 years ago, critics complained that the musical’s spiteful take on celebrity and the American justice system was too cynical.

Helmed by acclaimed director and choreographer Bob Fosse, “Chicago” told the story of two women accused of murder who use a little legal razzle dazzle to beat the system. Not only that, but they also parlay the publicity from their trials into a hot vaudeville act.

After O.J., Jacko and Kobe, the touring production of “Chicago” playing through Sunday at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton seems far less edgy than it must have felt back then. But there was something else keeping this ritzy satire from being as dark as it might otherwise have been.

The tone was light, almost playful at times on opening night Tuesday. Shameless killers Roxie Hart (Bianca Marroquin) and Velma Kelly (Brenda Braxton) were funny and sympathetic, as was their greedy attorney, Billy Flynn (Tom Wopat). Whether this is a good thing is debatable. This “Chicago” couldn’t help feeling dulled without its claws fully intact. But is the production an entertaining night out? You betcha.

Anyone who knows “Chicago” only by the 2002 Oscar-winning film starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger will be immediately struck by how minimal the stage version is. The set designed by John Lee Beatty merely is a bandstand, while William Ivey Long’s costumes are heavy on black bras, mesh shirts and brimmed hats.

Instead of the visual fireworks used in the film, the story is told mainly through the terrific score by John Kander and Fred Ebb and the sultry Fosse-inspired choreography. Each of the main characters has a bravura showstopper. Among the best are Roz Ryan’s boisterous “When You’re Good to Mama” and Ray Bokhour’s pathetically humorous “Mister Cellophane.”

Tickets for “Chicago” are $37-$67, plus fees, and can be purchased at the PAC, 400 W. College Ave., and through Ticketmaster at 920-731-5000,, Marshall Fields in the Fox River Mall and area Piggly Wiggly stores.

Steven Hyden can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 296, or by e-mail at


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