Hooray! The Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston has gotten hipper. This summer’s fare is CHICAGO, followed by FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, ending with LES MISERABLES. Not a Rogers & Hammerstein musical in sight. (Please don’t call me. I love a R&H show but I’ve seen THE SOUND OF MUSIC at least a dozen times at Reagle…or at least it seems like I have.)
The smashing Bob Fosse/ Kander & Ebb musical, CHICAGO, is the longest running musical on Broadway for a reason: The songs became instant hits the moment they debuted and the dancing was pure, irreverent “Fosse” gold. Reagle’s CHICAGO (playing through June 23rd) is directed and choreographed by Gerry McIntyre who, himself, performed in the national tour of the musical. Broadway and national tour veterans Angie Schworer and Sara Gettelfinger star as the glamorous murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, with Rick Pessagno in the flashy role of their smooth talking, “can’t fail” attorney.
You expect the ringers to be good---and Schworer is delightful as the not so dumb blonde, sensational in her scenes with Pessagno, especially the “We Both Reached for the Gun” puppet show rag. Pessagno gives the show class and plenty of “flim-flam” in the bargain. But the story in Reagle’s CHICAGO is that the drop dead, show stopping performance belongs to Peter Mill. SPOILER ALERT! If you’ve never seen CHICAGO do not read any further.
Mill is, hands down, the best Mary Sunshine I’ve ever seen. Most performers in the role concentrate on the falsetto and not much else. Mill makes the character sparkle in addition to his vocal acrobatics. His Mary Sunshine is charming, not at all the nasty interloper favored by most directors. His character is so welcome that you can’t wait for her to reappear. Mill isn’t the only local who walks away with a scene. Maryann Zschau is a force to be reckoned with as the formidable prison matron (and a little bit Mama Rose), even if she doesn’t play up the lesbian subtext. And Rachel Bertone and company make the “Cell Block Tango” number crackle with erotic energy. (Bertone again wows us en pointe in “Razzle Dazzle.”)
McIntyre’s choreography hews mostly to Fosse’s brilliant, original work but sometimes it drifts into a “let’s play charades” style of “indicating” (as in the “All That Jazz” hall and brawl rhymes: hands draw a “hall” and fists up on “brawl”) when McIntyre substitutes easier, but less Fossesque, less pleasing moves for some of the performers. Sometimes it’s just odd, as “When Velma Takes the Stand” surrounded by cheerleaders and a recurring “arms outstretched” goalpost maneuver.
McIntyre does get wonderful work from the ensemble, with Jamal Rashann Callender a standout as Roxie’s infamous boyfriend/shooting victim and Katie Clark, Jaclyn Miller, Linda Neel and Lizzie Porcari stunning as the lethal “Cell Block” girls. Music director Dan Rodriguez makes the orchestra and singers complement each other seamlessly (and Rodriguez plays a sweet “Rock of Ages” on the accordion, to boot, during Pessagno’s slippery, smooth summation). Jeremy Fenn-Smith conducts the crackerjack Reagle orchestra.
See Reagle’s CHICAGO for Pessagno’s on-the-money Billy Flynn and for the locals, especially Peter Mill’s reason-to-celebrate Mary Sunshine. Talk about larceny. Mill steals every scene he’s in and some he’s not!