The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
Books  |  Comedy  |  Dance  |  Museum And Gallery  |  Theater

On the jazz

Legacy's Chicago dazzles
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  July 15, 2009

chicago main
  ALL THAT The boys in the band.

The fluid line between repulsion and fascination is a quintessentially American seduction — think of P.T. Barnum's creepy chimerical "creatures," of Lizzie Borden, of a certain rogue hate-monger up in the Great White North. Perhaps because of the nation's Puritan underpinnings, moral disgust holds a particular allure, prompting that guilty-pleasurable urge to rubberneck. A Broadway send-up of this national tendency came in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal with the Jazz-Age vaudevillian antics of Chicago: When young married night-club dancer Roxie (Jessica Ernest) shoots the lover who's about to ditch her, celebrity lawyer Billy Flynn ( Paul Stickney, with great voice and suave swagger) does what he has for so many other women — turns murder into a media sensation, and the murderess into a national heroine. The recently created Legacy Theater Company mounts a wily production of the musical, directed by Raymond Marc Dumont.

Slinky song and dance are crucial to the come-on of the show, and Legacy has brought some excellent performers together under Dumont (who also choreographs) and musical director Camille Curtis Saucier. The ensemble posse of murderous Girls nives through some sharp choreography, with oomph and sass to spare. Keeping watch over the women in lock-down is the Matron "Mama" Morton (Gretchen G. Wood), a big woman with a bigger voice who manages the careers of prisoners like Velma (Cory Bucknam, with wry brio), another big-voiced murderess-celebrity and Roxie's main rival. The show's ensemble also boasts a slew of sexy skinny boys who provide sleek and accommodating support.

The six-piece band, including decadent muted horns, deserves its prominent upstage position. Although its balance with the voices could use some adjustment (vocals are sometimes lost in certain registers) the band swings, moans, and baby-talks bewitchingly through the score's erotic jazz numbers. The band has ample personality to handle being an overarching character in the show's vaudevillian sensibility.

As Roxie, Velma, Mama, and Billy scheme, their outfits also hit all the right notes, including the sexy-campy frippery of corsets, satin prison frocks, and white feathered wings bandied about Billy as he takes off his pants. The designers also have fun with the rare trappings of anti-glamour: the dowdy floral frock Billy rather sadistically insists Roxie wear to her trial, and the cartoonishly sad white gloves in which Roxie's schlemiel mechanic husband (David Heath) performs "Cellophane Man," the lament of an invisible man in a world hungry for spectacle. (Heath makes its pathos unexpectedly affecting; when he ends the song by saying, "I hope I didn't take up too much of your time," the audience emoted collectively in an audible "Awww.")

And as his no-good wife, the tall, leggy Ernest is utterly marvelous. Her voice is dulcet, her face expressive, and she is so effortless a dancer that it is difficult to look elsewhere whenever she moves. She also conveys a matter-of-factness and even an innocence in her Roxie's narcissistic desires. Roxie isn't immoral so much as blithely amoral — she's less out to do bad, and more believes standard rules simply do not apply to her. Her childishness and brazenness are reminders of whom we should really watch out for: not those choosing some obvious and absolute Evil, but those who are spectacularly, alluringly agile in defining "what's right."

Megan Grumbling can be reached at

CHICAGO, by Fred Ebb, Bob Fosse, and John Kander | Directed and choreographed by Raymond Marc Dumont | Musical Direction by Camille Curtis Saucier | Produced by The Legacy Theater Company | at the Harry P. Garland II Auditorium, Thornton Academy, Route 1, Saco | through July 19 | 207.604.9448

Related: BHO's no FDR, Cadillac Records, SpeakEasy's The New Century, Cabaret at New Rep, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Chicago, Lizzie Borden, Bob Fosse,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Best Music Poll 2009 winners
Today's Event Picks
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   LESBIANS UNITE  |  August 26, 2009
    For centuries, sundry artists have extolled Maine as a locale for all sort of idylls and creations. This weekend, a series of plays will limn our state's romanticism with seductive specificity: as a setting for imaginative and sensual women loving women.
  •   MUSICAL POWER  |  August 19, 2009
    The Man in the Chair (Charles Abbott) is a man of a certain age who wears both a sweater vest and a cardigan, feels pangs of a "non-specific sadness," and harbors an abiding nostalgia for the musical theater of yesteryear.
  •   A SMOOTH COURSE  |  August 12, 2009
    A Midsummer Night's Dream is arguably the Bard's sultriest, silliest, and most gossamer comedy. As such, of course, it is also among the most oft-produced al fresco summer offerings in the whole canon.
  •   A DANISH PUNK  |  August 05, 2009
    The sad mad Danish prince is probably the most oft-quoted tragic hero in the English language, but he's a lot more than that. He is also, as I was reminded recently by a theater companion encountering him for the first time, pretty exasperating to be around, as well as "kind of a punk."
  •   GILDED STAGE  |  July 29, 2009
    In the Theater at Monmouth's Twelfth Night , the Bard's gender-bending foibles play out in a proscenium within a proscenium — or, more strictly speaking, a sound stage within a proscenium:

 See all articles by: MEGAN GRUMBLING

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2009 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group