Entertainment » Theatre


by Will Demers
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Sep 4, 2018
Jessica Wockenfuss and Michelle Alves in "Chicago" at Theatre By The Sea thru September 9. Photos by Steven Richard Photography.
Jessica Wockenfuss and Michelle Alves in "Chicago" at Theatre By The Sea thru September 9. Photos by Steven Richard Photography.  

Two gals just trying to fix what's wrong with their lives, two gals with big trouble with their men, and both just wanting to be famous in their own right. Well, they both are in prison for murder and waiting for trial dates, headlines and vindication. I guess in Chicago back in the 1920s that's how things went down. Girls will be girls!

Theatre by the Sea's 85th season wraps up with crowd-pleasing "Chicago," a sassy, brassy and altogether edgy look at a fictional pair of murderesses. True to the restored barn theatre's legacy, summer theatre is quite an event in Wakefield, and after being recognized by the local town council on their anniversary, the production doesn't disappoint. Bob Fosse would be proud of the choreography, and John Kander's music and Fred Ebb's lyrics pop with a fresh, flashy take on one of Broadway's longest running musicals.

A bit edgier than most productions this reviewer has seen, the cast nevertheless throws themselves into their roles with gusto. Tarra Conner Jones' "Mama" brings a strong vocal presence, having appeared at the season opener, "Ain't Misbehavin'." Matthew J.Taylor's "Billy Flynn" is the right amount of slimy lawyer and showman, and Kevin Loreque as Amos, Roxie's not so memorable husband, brings professional gravitas (he worked with Steven Spielberg!) to a small part. M. Houghland as Mary Sunshine keeps the audience giggling with some inspired singing but also some strong comedic touches.

Jessica Wockenfuss, an intern at this theatre ten years ago, steps into Roxie's shoes easily; her performance is sparkling with right amount of sass. But Michelle Alves' Velma Kelly truly commands the stage - she is a force of nature in this show. Bob Richard's direction isn't afraid to play up all the elements that make this show fun for everyone; not just the heterosexual crowd. Diane Laurenson's choreography captures the right amount of Fosse and the '20s flair, there's so much going it begs repeat attendance. The ensemble is filled with leggy girls and hot boys, there's no absence of eye candy here, or lack of talent.

In keeping with the gritty, speakeasy look of the era, Kyle Dixon as scenic designer and some imaginative lighting by Jose Santiago make the production dazzle. A tight show, there isn't a moment that lulls, and it's worth the price of admission to see Wockenfuss, Taylor, and Alves strut their stuff. After all, they're the three at the center of the show, and they keep everything together with some "Jazz and Liquor." Don't stay away from this season closer, you'll be sorry if you miss it!

"Chicago" is running through September 9th at Theatre By The Sea, 364 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield, RI 02879. For information or tickets, call 401-782-8587 or visit www.theatrebythesea.com


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