ROCKS ITS AUDIENCE WITH ITS TALENT
By Iride Aparicio
Photo Credit: Palo Alto Players
Palo Alto, CA—“CHICAGO” is described as the musical that has all the elements that people love: crime, adultery and corruption. In this production, however, we should add talent, because it is the combined talent of all the players of the Palo Alto Players Theatre, who are making the musical rock the city of Palo alto.
And we mean rocking it. Because on the night of September 20, one week after its premiere in the city at the Lucie Stern Theatre, the Saturday night performance had everybody clapping on their seats and swaying their bodies in rhythm with the music.
The performance began after a short film showing the buildings and the people of the 20’s in Chicago’s crowded streets. Inside the cabarets, in other shots, we could see the people dancing the Charleston.
From the stage, Mohammed Ismail (pictured left) announced to audience that CHICAGO, the production, was about to start.
The lively music of “All that Jazz” played by the orchestra conducted by Piano/Conductor Katie Coleman filled the auditorium. On the stage, young couples, dressed in their underwear, began dancing. One of them, Velma Kelly (Janette LaSalle) singing the song in a sultry tone of voice accompanied by a choir.
Roxie Hart (Elizabeth Santana) appeared at the center of the stage. She beganclimbing the steps of a pjlatform being followed by Fred Casselly (Ismail). When the man stops, a few steps below her shouting that their relationship is over, Roxie shoots him with a gun.
At the beginning, Amos (Joey McDaniel) her husband, takes the blame for the crime, but later on, realizing that he may be hung for it, he backs up in his statements and Roxie is charged for the crime and put into prison.
But we ought to remember that this musical is showing us the “corruption” of the Chicago from the 20’s, so that is what we see first, portrayal in “Mama, Morton” the Matron of the jail (Jennifer Taylor Daniels). A charming African-American woman who runs the jail like a theatrical booking agency.
Her “stars,” are the pretty women criminals, whoe because of their age and physical attributes, have a better chance to be parole and go free. So “Mama” helps them get their freedom by charging them money for “favors” such as: how to get publicity in the newspapers, or to making phone calls to different institutions including movie agents, interested in the lives of these criminals to write them as scripts and present them to the public as films. In this production, Taylor Daniels in the role of “Mama” gave the audience a charming rendition of her role as jail matron in “When you are good to Mama” the song in which he promises the prisoners that if they are “good” to Mama, Mama will be good to them. too.
At this time, her “star” in the prison, ( who is the one who pays “Mama” more money for “publicity”) is Velma, (LaSalle) who dreams of going from jail into show business as a dancer and singer. We should add that as a dancer, she has rhythm , as a singer, she has a sultry voice, and her looks meets all the required credentials in the shape of her figure and beauty of her face.
Defending Velma, is famous Criminal lawyer Billy Flynn. (Michael Monagle) Sleezy as a fox, shrew, more crooked than the Lombard Street in San Francisco and so deceitful that he has been known for swaying jurors by manipulating them to feel sorry for the criminal and send her free. Seen his opportunity for more fame, Flynn offers to defend Roxie for five thousand dollars.
And with a series of songs and dances, including “Cell Block Tango” in which each of the women reveals in a song the reasons why they murdered their husbands or lovers, the show goes on. It shows Flynn making a dummy out of Roxie, a revelation from poor Amos, in another song, that he feels that a cellophane man because he is not noticed by anyone, and a display of Flynn's fame in “Razz le Dazzle” presented in the style of "The Siegfield Follies” with the lawyer as the star of the show, surrounded by girls with big while feather fans. And in the court house, the press people, which includes Mary Sunshine (N. Sanchez) which in the production gives us a beautiful rendition of “A Little Bit of Good” in his lovely voice.
L-R Amos, Joey McDaniel, the judge Robbie Reign, Roxie Elizabeth Santana and Michael Monagle as Billy Flynn Photo: Richard Mayer
Perhaps the only suggestion to better this excellentent production, where the two principal actresses, Lasalle as Velma and Santana as Roxie, (pictured left in Joyce Goldschmid photo) are wonderful in their roles, would be to have the men dressed in suits while dancing, instead of wearing underwear. While women wearing underwear look “sexy” men dancing in their shorts look in poor taste. The other suggestion, will be to give Amos some dignity and not dress him as a clown. He is, in reality, he a pathetic figure.
While CHICAGO, because of its theme, may not be a musical for everyone. In this presentation, Director Janie Scott, managed to present the story in a very entertaining way, with good dancers, excellent singers and wonderful performances by each one of the actors. This CHICAGO rocked the people in Palo Alto, which should make it proud, because we ought to remember that in the Palo Alto Player’s Productions, every one of the people who participate in any of its productions is local
Chicago will continue playing until September 27. for tickets go to www.Paplayers.org or call 650-329-0891