West Theatre Gives Us the Old Razzle Dazzle


Photo by Blake Noble

The Spring musical Chicago brought song, dance, and jazz back to West’s newly renovated auditorium from Thursday April 20th to Saturday April 22nd. In spite of some innate controversy around the show’s more adult themes, this production wowed audiences thanks to the hard work of the performers and crew. 

Chicago follows Roxie Hart (Alexa Dutca) as she tries to get away with murder with the help of her cunning lawyer Billy Flynn (Charlie Lettenberger), sassy and corrupt warden Matron “Mama” Morton (Gabriella Knap), unwitting husband Amos Hart (Henry Tatarunas), and fellow murderess Velma Kelly (Emma Wargin) while the city looks on in fascination. 

Ms. Wargin opened the show with All That Jazz against a blood red backdrop with a textured powerhouse voice and cool confidence. Ms. Dutca wowed with her clear and soulful singing, portraying Roxie’s vindictive ego with swagger and an upbeat vibrato. Her chemistry with Ms.Wargin’s Velma was playful and competitive, and when they sang their duets, their voice’s beauty and raw emotion could send shivers up anyone’s spine. Together, their dazzling voices and committed dynamic acting drove the show.

Ms. Knapp began her first song as the warden of murderess row in the audience with her fiery alto, as she made her way through the audience to belt out the rest of her number in the multi-storied jailhouse on stage. 

As the charismatic Billy Flynn, Mr. Lettenberger used his suave vocals, smooth talking, and his incredibly bedazzled and well-coordinated backup dancers to convince the city of Roxie’s innocence. The windy city’s journalists, including the overtly positive and operatic Mary Sunshine (Viv Winter), are swayed by all the razzle dazzle with wide-eyed fervor.

Mr. Tatarunas played Roxie’s simple lovesick husband and took a seemingly small role and milked it for everything it was worth. He had excellent dramatic chemistry with Roxie and did a marvelous job with his song Mr. Cellophane, bringing in laughs and sympathy for the poor man. 

The show was supported by a large ensemble that even took over the stage at times. Most were enthusiastic and on point with the choreography, but understandably ran out of breath during the more demanding numbers. 

This Broadway classic does not come without controversy as the show draws from vaudeville and burlesque to explore some mature themes. Although this was the teen version, it retained some innuendo and swearing that raised some audience members’ eyebrows. 

Elements of the show’s original choreography by Bob Fosse remained, but a fair amount was altered to keep everything appropriate. This is a reasonable approach, but the iconic song Cell Block Tango felt like it was missing something without its characteristic chair choreography.  

Overall, this year’s musical is one of the best West Theatre has put on in years, despite the prospect of such a famous and inherently demanding production. With such a fun atmosphere, sharp vocals, and terrific performances, who says that murder’s not an art?