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Home / Articles / Arts / Theater /  Sex appeal and sass keep ‘Chicago’ young
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Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

Sex appeal and sass keep ‘Chicago’ young

San Diego Musical Theatre production leads our rundown of local plays

By David L. Coddon

San Diego Musical Theatre’s production of Chicago gets your attention before the first note of the longtime Broadway favorite is sung. When gorgeous cast member Jennifer Simpson, barely clad in black, struts down one of the aisles of the Birch North Park Theatre and takes the stage like she owns the place, you know this is going to be one sexy show—and it is.

Maybe that’s why the 1975 show, written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, with collaboration on the book from the redoubtable Bob Fosse, never gets old. It’s saucy and sassy and still quite funny, and the SDMT production does not disappoint.

You start with a worthy Roxie Hart, and Australian Emma Radwick, enjoying her U.S. theatrical debut, has all the right moves. Besides begin an agile dancer and expressive comedian, she makes for a lovable killer.

Roxie, as you may remember, is incarcerated and subsequently on trial for the shooting death of the guy with whom she’s cheating on her nebbish of a husband, Amos (Jason James). Neither Kyra Da Costa, as Roxie’s jailhouse (and showbiz) rival Velma Kelly, nor Robert J. Townsend, as flamboyant lawyer Billy Flynn, possesses Radwick’s magnetism, but they hold their own in a benignly notorious show that brims with cleverly written (and choreographed, by Randy Slovacek) tunes such as “Cell Block Tango,” “We Both Reached for the Gun,” “Razzle Dazzle” and, of course, the opening “All That Jazz.” A highlight of Act 2 is Velma and “Mama” Morton’s (Ria Carey) wistful, laugh-out-loud duet “Class” (excerpt: “Oh, there ain’t no gentlemen that’s fit for any use, and any girl’d touch your privates for a deuce”).

The presence of the orchestra on stage can feel intrusive, in spite of the strong musical accompaniment conducted by Don Le Master. This is a Chicago for the most part without a set. But Roxie’s, Velma’s and the ensemble’s costumes (design by Janet Pitcher) are so eye-catching that who cares if there’s no jail cell or courtroom?

San Diego Musical Theatre’s run of Chicago winds up on Sunday, March 3, but if you miss it or you can’t get enough of Roxie, Velma and Billy, Welk Theatre will open its own production of the show on March 22. The razzle-dazzle just keeps on coming.

Tickets for the Birch North Park Theatre production are $26 to $56. 

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Doctored and Devised: The UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance turns some of Dr. Seuss’ stories and characters into a live cartoon of a play. Runs Feb. 27 through March 2 at UCSD’s Arthur Wagner Theatre. 

The MENding Monologues and The Vagina Monologues: InnerMission Productions, in association with Eveoke Dance Theatre, explores gender politics and gender violence from male and female perspectives. Vagina will be performed on Feb. 28 (8 p.m.), March 2 (8 p.m.) and March 3 (2 p.m.), and MENding will be performed on March 1 (8 p.m.) and March 3 (7 p.m.) at Eveoke Dance Theatre in North Park.

The Mountaintop: In a fictional version of events, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spends his last night among the living in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it opens March 2 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown.

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth: Spike Lee directs Mike Tyson in this one-man show that follows the boxer from the streets of Brooklyn to the world championship to the many controversies that enveloped his life. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it’ll be performed on March 5 at the Balboa Theatre, Downtown.


Tonight We Improvise: It’s playwright Luigi Pirandello’s play within a play, chronicling a troupe of actors’ improvisational take on Pirandello’s own novella, Leonora, Addio!, about a controversial Italian family. Presented by UCSD’s Department of Theatre and Dance, it runs through March 2 at the Mandell Weiss Theatre at UCSD. 

Birds of a Feather: Human actors play two gay penguins who raise a chick in the Central Park Zoo and an opposite-sex couple of hawks who do the same on a ledge of a swanky Manhattan high-rise. Yep, based on true events. Through March 3 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights.

The Bluest Eye: This adaptation of Toni Morrison’s 1970 focuses on an 11-year-old girl in 1940s Ohio who’s been led to believe that her dark skin makes her ugly. Jointly presented by Moxie Theatre and Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, it runs through March 3 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando.,

Chicago: Staged locally almost as often as Rent, this musical’s about women in the 1920s who sing songs and also murder people. Presented by San Diego Musical Theatre, it runs through March 3 at the Birch North Park Theatre.

DNA New Work Series: La Jolla Playhouse is providing rehearsal space and resources to new playwrights developing their scripts, the results of which will be presented in staged readings or workshopped productions through March 3. Check for the schedule of performances.

Pete ’n Keely: It’s the late-1960s, and a successful singing duo who haven’t spoken in five years have decided to reunite for a live TV special. Through March 3 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado.

Ruthless! The Musical: In this all-female satire, an 8-year-old wannabe star murders the girl who got the lead in the school play. Then some really crazy shit happens. Through March 3 at Coronado Playhouse.

The Trip to Bountiful: In spite of the objections of her son and daughter-in-law, an elderly woman treks from Houston to her hometown of Bountiful, Texas, and finds that things have changed. Through March 3 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad.

Punk Rock: This is the West Coast premiere of a drama about seven affluent British prep-school teens getting ready for final exams. It doesn’t end well. Through March 9 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest.

People Say You Can’t Live Without Love I Think Oxygen is More Important: A musical revue about love. Through March 10 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista.

Sailor’s Song: In John Patrick Shanley’s play, a seaman who’s trying to find his way in life meets to beguiling sisters and tries to find his way with them. Through March 10 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido.

South Pacific: Love blossoms for two couples amid racial prejudice and World War II in this classic musical. Runs through March 17 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido.

Time Stands Still: A couple—she a war photojournalist, he a war reporter—return from Iraq after she’s injured and face a less-exhilarating future together. Through March 17 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.

Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill.