Tacoma Musical Playhouse opens its season with the stunningly sexy Chicago. Sex, murder, lies, cheating and double crossing never looked so good. Vixen Velma Kelly and doe-eyed Roxie Hart find themselves in prison, working angles for lawyer Billy Flynn to keep them from hanging and get them released.
After seeing the majority of performances TMP has produced the last two years, I was a little apprehensive to review Chicago. The musical requires a level of sexiness that has not been apart of their past shows. The complexity of songs and dances makes it an ambitious choice and, if done well, a brilliant show to start the season.
The set is remarkable and contains beautiful art deco detailing. Instead of TMP's usual house-left placement of the orchestra, the musicians are placed atop the set, upstage center. While this placement makes absolute sense for this show, it would be fabulous if it became permanent. The sound is more even throughout the room and some of the sound is absorbed before it reaches the audience, making it a perfect volume for the actors to sing over.
Candi Hall plays Velma Kelli and opens the show with the number "All That Jazz." She sings and dances with a confidence that is hard to match by the rest of the company. "Cell Block Tango," sung by Velma & the Girls, was one of the best songs of the evening. Hall pulls of sexy Velma with ease in Act I but during the end of Act II seemed to be losing a little energy. Kristin Burch plays sweet and deadly Roxie Hart. Possibly the most incredible number of the show was "We Both Reached for the Gun." Roxie plays dummy to Billy Flynn (played by Rafe Wadleigh). The company's costumes/makeup and dancing, along with Burch and Wadleigh's performance made it visually stunning.
The costumes throughout the show were incredible. TMP's costume committee did a commendable job in create the perfect look for the show. The costumes were on the provocative and edgy side while still remaining appropriate for their patrons' wide age range. There were many costume changes and everyone was perfectly polished.
The only issue with the performance was with the sound system. Last season, I mainly reviewed the Sunday matinees, which gave TMP two performances to work out any bugs. I had hope they had fixed their sound issues from the previous year but apparently it is still something with which crews struggle. At times during Chicago's opening night, there was feedback and the sound cut off (or on) in the middle of numbers and dialogue. Thankfully, the cast never missed a beat or a word even when it was clear there were issues with the sound.
Hopefully the sound won't be an issue for the remainder of the run. Even with those flaws, Chicago's choreography and costumes are visually stunning and worth seeing.
(Chicago, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, $20-$29, 253.565.6867, Friday and Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m., through Oct. 21