Chicago-style Chill @ Bass Hall

Get your chill on with Chicago at Bass Hall: a steam-punkish (?) moody 1920’s Chicago meets smooth jazz supper club presentation. Based on the 1996 City Center Encores! Series concert-style revival of the 1975 Kander and Ebb Musical Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville, the Broadway Specials national tour of Chicago thrusts its razzle-dazzle of gyrating hips and syncopated snapping fingers onto Ft Worth’s Bass Hall stage for a short run June 17- 19. In 1997 this version of Chicago won six Tony awards, including Best Musical Revival of 1996 and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Cast Recording. It’s now considered the fifth longest running Broadway musical ever. The legendary Ann Reinking originally choreographed the production in the style of Bob Fosse with Walter Bobbie directing. This national tour’s director Scott Faris and choreographer Gary Chryst follow suit.

Performers appear in uniform supper club style black attire, with singing dancer chorus in sultry skin-tight dancewear, bustiers and fishnets up to ‘there’ and muscles rippling for all to see. All leads could move directly from performance to clinking champagne flutes at a classy fund-raiser soiree with only momentary pause to damp sweat-beaded brows and freshen make-up.  It’s a far less fanciful or playful or raunchy production than one might expect but very effective in allowing the outstanding musical numbers and eye-catching dance routines to shine.

The jazz styled orchestra, combo conducted and directed by Eric Knight Barnes, dominates the stage in a raked, black box bandstand. Singing dancers and leads, seated in full audience view to stage right and left of the framed bandstand, enter from the sides or though the bandstand center for their specific numbers downstage, occasionally conversing with the orchestra conductor. Rather than feeling transported back to the gritty reality of1920’s rough and tumble Chicago, the audience feels like it’s witnessing a vaudevillian-style dramatization in song and dance. What gets lost in suspension of disbelief gets balanced out in sheer delight at the Bob Fosse theatricality and glorious musical numbers.

Terra C. Macleod and Tracy Shayne as Velma and Roxie share the stage well in duet numbers and bring recognizable elements of the 2002 academy award-winning movie to their characterizations. Ron Orbach as Amos, cuddly and sympathetic with ample girth and supplicating demeanor, makes an easy audience favorite after delivering a heart-felt, white-gloved “Mr. Cellophane” solo. Roz Ryan’s confident, commanding, dulcet tones fill the furthest recesses of Bass Hall, as she booms no nonsense life lessons as Matron “Mama” Morton.

John O'Hurley as Billy Flynn

John O’Hurley as Billy looks like he stepped right out of D Magazine’s slick, commercial guide to  “DFW’s best attorneys” with his polished, refined demeanor; and T.W. Smith earns warm audience appreciation with his tremolo-washed cross-dressing turn as society page columnist Mary Sunshine.

Gritty 1920’s Chicago it’s not, but a fun evening this Performing Arts Ft. Worth production makes with its stylized tribute to Bob Fosse song and dance magic through Kander and Ebb’s musical theatre classic.

For further information, or to purchase tickets call the Bass Hall Box Office at 817-212-4280, toll-free at 1-877-212-4280.

Runs through Sunday June 19.

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