Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - September 2, 2011

Play review: Merry murderesses make for a musical 'Chicago'

Don't miss the current offering at the Firehouse Theater

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

When is a jailhouse fun? When it's filled with tiers of comely women, all awaiting trail in the 1920s for murdering men who "had it coming." The vampish suspects prance, dance and sing out their stories in "Chicago," the current offering of Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre at the Firehouse Arts Center.

"Chicago" begins with vaudevillian Velma (Nicole Frydman) belting out "All That Jazz," joined by a chorus of singers and dancers. She found her husband in bed with her sister and killed them both although she claims she has no recollection of it. Soon we see Roxie (Joy Sherratt) shooting her lover when he announces he's leaving her. Roxie's hapless husband Amos (Sebastian Romeo) tries to take the blame but the truth is soon out. Roxie pleads self-defense.

The flashy inmates, who show plenty of leg along with their little black and white jail-stripe jackets, are cared for by Mama (Karol Strempke), the matron who shows her affection by arranging lawyers, trial dates and more, extracting money for each favor.

Velma and Roxie, who soon learn the advantages of being "celebrity criminals," are defended by smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn (David Judson). First and foremost, he guides them in dealing with the trench-coat-clad press, an all-important part of the trial process, which, like most of life, is a con game. One of the most delightful scenes has Roxie perched on Billy's lap as he controls her like a ventriloquist. The press is led by sob sister Susie Sunshine, who helps make Billy's point that appearances can be deceiving.

The plot rollicks along with clever lyrics, songs and dances, all imaginatively choreographed by Lois Grandi, in the style of Bob Fosse, with whom she worked on Broadway. The seven-man orchestra, led by Pat Parr, who also serves as the announcer, balances perfectly with the singers.

This is the second production in Pleasanton of Pacific Coast Rep, which was just signed on by the city as the resident musical theater company of the Firehouse. Good job, Pleasanton! This and "Cabaret" in January were the perfect productions to rock the intimate space of the theater, which opened a year ago.

The show was sold out Saturday night and hopefully will be for the remaining performances as it continues through Sept. 4. Before the show and during intermission, the crowd wandered through the Harrington Art Gallery and the stunning building and terraces.

Firehouse Arts Center, 4444 Railroad Ave., is a great addition to downtown Pleasanton, as is the Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre.

"Chicago" continues through Sept. 4. Tickets are $18-$33. Visit or call 931-4848.


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