By Dale M. King
LAKE WORTH — Usually, theater critics can find fault with just about any production.
But you know what? I can’t find a single negative thing to say about the musical, “Chicago,” now being staged at the Lake Worth Playhouse.
The show is superb, the cast, excellent. There’s not a single bad note, muffed line, missed dance step or stifled bit of schtick in this slinky, sexy show that raises garter belts, black stockings and bustiers to a new level.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence that I recently bought the soundtrack CD from the movie version of “Chicago.” It’s just so much nicer to have a visual to go with the audio.
The musical is set in Prohibition-era Chicago. The music is by John Kander, with lyrics by Fred Ebb, based on a book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. The story is a satire on corruption and the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the “celebrity criminal.” (If you get flashes of O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony, you’re not the only one.)
The musical is based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, about actual criminals and crimes she reported on.
The action focuses on a couple of killer dames (literally and figuratively), Velma Kelly (Gina Nespoli) and Roxie Hart (Emily Thompson), both accused of murder. Velma’s already in the slam and Roxie’s been arrested for killing an alleged burglar. She tries to pin the rap on her milquetoast husband, Amos (Topher Ruble).
In comes razzle-dazzling defense lawyer Billy Flynn, portrayed with wonderful, wry wit and overwhelming charm by Michael DeGrotta, who has both of their cases on his list of things to do. Billy is more interested in media coverage than justice, and basks in the flashbulbs and scribblings of the local scribes. (Eat your heart out, Jose Baez!)
Flynn is all-around outstanding, in voice and acting talent. He got my attention for singing my favorite song in the show, “Razzle Dazzle,” and he has a sly charm that’s engaging. He also does an excellent job singing, “All I Care About is Love,” about his so-called “motive” for being a lawyer.
Thompson is Roxie, a sexy, leggy lady who’s not only looking to beat the murder rap, but also to outdo Velma on the musical stage.
Nespoli’s Velma is a miniscule, whip-cracking spitfire of a character (I knew she had to be from New York). She seems very stage-savvy and comfortable in the spotlight. She’s emits a beautiful booming voice from a tiny frame for tunes like “All That Jazz” and “Cannot Do It Alone.”
Special plaudits go to other cast members as well: to Nikki Bradley as the prison’s “Matron Mama.” She slips easily into the role that Queen Latifah played in the movie.
Ruble is delightfully understated as Amos, Roxie’s hapless husband who offers a perfect rendition of my other favorite song from the show, “Mr. Cellophane.”
Nespoli and Thompson team up for song great duets on “Nowadays,” “Hot Honey Rag” and “I Am My Own Best Friend” (I thought John Candy sang that in “Spaceballs”).
Anyway, if you miss “Chicago,” you’ll miss a really great show. It’s playing through July 31 at the Lake Worth Playhouse, 713 Lake Ave., Lake Worth. Call 561-586-6410 for tickets.