This month The Greendale Community Theatre stages an aesthetically enticing production of Kander and Ebb’s Chicago. The classic musical sensually comes to life in shadow and light, line and form without a hint of the superfluous exaggeration that so often encumbers classic musicals. Lighting Designer Ryan Barry’s photons caress a potently iconic visual world that includes impressively textured costumes by Jess Liebherr. Director Brian Bzdawka assembles the story with brisk pacing and a very sharp execution.
Amber Smith vamps it up into full diva mode as the jailbird celebrity Velma. There is an elegantly sculpted, high-density power radiating from her. Smith wields her voice with expert precision in a range of moods. Smith has quite a range and she allows it to be seen here in a spectrum of different moods. She explosively delivers passionate musical passion. She delicately hints at comic bits of dialogue and clever silences.
Grace Yeager plays with different energies as the newly imprisoned murderer Roxy. Yeager has a sweet softness around the edges of her voice and stage presence. She seems smartly aware of the fact that a little bit of that soft sweetness goes along way. The character is crude and brutal and kind of ugly on the inside. Yeager allows those qualities to rest in the forefront of the character while allowing the dazzling appealing nature of the character’s presence to lounge seductively around the edges of her performance.
Kassandra Novell has a classy authority about her in the role of prison matriarch Mama. All of the power in the dramatic dynamic of the plane needs to run through her initially. It does so by virtue of the fact that she is simply there. To her credit, Novell never reaches too far attain a sense of mastery over everything. Novell has a sense of mastery over everything that requires no overt show of menace or force. Novell's is a very strong presence onstage.
George Marn plays Billy— in this case a young highly-paid lawyer. Marin has the feeling of a finally sculpted model about him. His precision in the role feels less like a product of experience and more like a product of raw radiant talent mixed with a fair bit of luck. The youthful energy that Marn lends Billy is reflected in a similarly young ensemble.
There’s no excessive essence of inexperience about the men and women of the background. Shadows and tight black fabrics slide around with skin and muscle in shifting colors slicing into the darkness through thin columns of vertical light. All the form and execution feel very crisp and thanks no doubt in no small part to the work of choreographer Stephanie Staszak. Her work and the effort of the entire ensemble deliver a really solid evening of musical theater to the stage which is a sensual and beautiful even when things get ugly in a captivating story of murder, need and desperation.
Greendale Community Theatre’s staging of Chicago runs through January 19th at the Henry Ross Auditorium inside Greendale High School on 6801 Southway in Greendale. For ticket reservations and more, visit Greendale Community Theatre online.