Monthly Archive for: ‘September, 2015’

CHICAGO the Musical by the Palo Alto Players is a crowd pleaser.

Palo Alto Players – CHICAGO – left to right: Janelle LaSalle as Velma Kelly and Elizabeth Santana as Roxie Hart – Photo credit: Joyce Goldschmid

Palo Alto Players – CHICAGO – left to right: Janelle LaSalle as Velma Kelly and Elizabeth Santana as Roxie Hart – Photo credit: Joyce Goldschmid

CHICAGO: Musical. Written by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Directed and choreographed by Janie Scott. Palo Alto Players-Peninsula Center Stage, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA. 650.329.0891 or www.paplayers.org.   September 11 – 27, 2015.

CHICAGO the Musical by the Palo Alto Players is a crowd pleaser. Rating: ★★★★☆

For their 85th season the ambitious Palo Alto Players (PAP) have chosen to produce only Tony Award winning shows. For their first play of the 2015-16 season they have mounted an energy filled production of the musical Chicago. It is an auspicious four out of five stars start and if the remainder of the season matches the quality of Chicago it is going to be a banner year for the ‘Peninsula’s first theatre company.’

PAP recruits players from the South Bay that is loaded with talent. Although PAP is a Non-Equity theatre group the curriculum vitae of cast members are filled with experience. Janelle LaSalle who plays Velma Kelly was a smash hit as Deena Jones in Broadway by the Bay’s Dream Girls and co-star Elizabeth Santana (Roxie Hart) who has tread the boards throughout the Bay Area is prize student of director/choreographer Janie Scott. Add a physically talented dance ensemble and the nucleus for an energetic evening is assured.

The musical Chicago earned its first Tony in 1975 and its second Tony for its revival in 1997 and added an Olivier Award for the London run. Since then it has been around the block professionally and in regional theatres. It always has been a crowd pleasing satire based on a rather dark subject of lady murders (is it OK to say murderesses?) who gained fame/notoriety in mid-20s Chicago due to lurid/laudatory newspaper articles and corruption in the justice system.

We are introduced in the opening scene to our first murderess during the high-powered Bob Fosse designed “All That Jazz” number that director/choreographer Janie Scott keeps intact although she may have added personal touches. Then the story kicks in with aspiring (?) chorus girl Roxie putting a few bullets into her paramour Harry (Shahil Patel) and faithful husband Amos (Joey McDaniel) initially takes the blame but reneges and Roxie is sent off to jail.

In the pokey Roxie’s fame overshadows Velma’s and conflict exists but not before Velma and the “Girls” tell their tales-of-woe in the “Cell Block Tango” number with the male chorus/dancers strutting their stuff while getting their due. The Master-of Ceremonies (Mohamed Ismail) has introduced the show but there are other characters to meet.

Full-bodied Jennifer Taylor Daniels as Matron “Mama” Morton” has a show stopper with “With When You’re Good to Mama” (Mama’s good to you). We still need lawyer Billy Flynn (tall, handsome Michael Monagle) to make his entrance behind huge white feathered fans bandied about by the Girls as he sings “All I Care About” (is Love). The final featured character is tabloid columnist Mary Sunshine (N. Sanchez) who is hoot-and-a- holler with “A Little Bit of
Good.” She and Billy cook up a story about how Harry died, “We Both Reached for the Gun.”

That is enough of the storyline because the real story is the production values, expert athletic choreography, great singing and acting, individual vignettes and a fantastic on-stage 11 piece band. The only caveats are some questionable directorial conceits and the bizarre costuming of the male dancers/chorus.

Janelle LaSalle and Elizabeth Santana individually and in tandem bring down the house with the many numbers (“Roxie”, “I Can’t Do it Alone”, “My Own Best Friend”, “I Know a Girl”, “When Velma Takes the Stand” and the finale “Honey Rag”). Michael Monagle is adequate with “Razzle Dazzle” but gives an uneven performance as does Jennifer Taylor Daniels in her duet with Velma bemoaning what ever happened to “Class.” Joey McDaniel earns double and triple raves with his depiction of Amos and his signature song “Mr. Cellophane.”

All in all, it is an excellent two hour and 25 minute staging of a hilarious/satirical musical that earns a strong should see four star rating.

CAST: Velma Kelly, Janelle LaSalle; Roxie Hart, Elizabeth Santana; Billy Flynn, Michael Monagle; Matron “Mama” Morton, Jennifer Taylor Daniels; Mary Sunshine, Robert Sanchez; Amos Hart, Joey McDaniel; MC/Fred Casely, Mohamed Ismail. Female Ensemble: Tara Hart-Rodriguez, Jennifer Hernandez, Daron O’Donnell, Kathryn Petak, Angelique Shepherd, Laura Warner. Male Ensemble: Marc Gonzalez, Zendrex Llado, Shahil Patel, Robert Read, Michael Saenz, Terrance Saffold, Jr.

ARTISTIC STAFF: Director & Choreographer, Janie Scott; Musical Director, Katie Coleman; Scenic Designer & Artistic Director, Patrick Klein; Costume Designer, Jeff Hamby; Lighting Designer, Nick Kumamoto; Sound Designer, Grant Huberty; Properties Designer, Pat Tyler; Hair & Makeup Designer, Jessica Ellithorpe; Technical Director, Janny Cote; Scenic Artist, Paulino Deleal; Stage Manager, Jeff Grafton.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com.

Palo Alto Players – CHICAGO – left to right: Janelle LaSalle as Velma Kelly and Elizabeth Santana as Roxie Hart – Photo credit: Joyce Goldschmid