"Chicago," the Bob Fosse musical now on Broadway, opened here Tuesday night with its top-notch touring company in Shea's Performing Arts Center to a rousing welcome from a houseful of enthusiastic fans.
It's a five-star musical with a 10-star cast, and with Fosse's outstanding choreography as interpreted by his fave dancer/choreographer Ann Reinking (after Fosse's signature style), a feat for which she won a Tony Award this year.
The book (also by Fosse) is snappy, hilariously and sharply funny, and moves faster than a speeding bullet, which brings us to the way-clever premise, which originated in the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins.
Roxie Hart, played here by the marvelous Charlotte d'Amboise, daughter of the great dancer, choreographer and dance educator Jacques d'Amboise, is a coldhearted cutie with a husband (Ron Orbach -- marvelous!) who's thick as a sock and boring in bed. Rox is given to other guys, natch, one of whom she offs when he tries to break up with her. Well! Don't that just make the music start!
The tale follows Roxie to a women's prison, where she meets the likes of Matron "Mama" Morton ("You take care o' Mama and Mama take care of you," she belts out in her principal number -- a simmering, threatening and, at the same time, off-the-wall prison tune) and Velma Kelly, played by triple-threat Janine LaManna.
It's a Fosse show, so of course it's bubbling over with leggy, athletic babes in skintight thongs, teeny black bras, high heels and see-through socks, and guys with pants so tight you can't imagine them even sitting down, much less executing the moves they come up with here.
There are also a lot of black fedoras and derbies, sinuous, snaky, acrobatic production numbers, gender-bending, cocky cynicism and blatant sexual allusions in the lyrics, choreography and dialogue.
Think Sally Bowles in "Cabaret" (which Fosse choreographed and directed), think "Liza With a Z" (Fosse there, too) and the biographical film about Fosse, "All That Jazz," whose title comes from a song in this musical.
Fosse didn't alter his style much, and I frankly got sick of it via Liza herself, who, if she shows up one more time in a black derby, sheer hose and a tuxedo jacket, will make me hork.
But hey, this is Fosse at his absolute best, and I loved the show. One of the funniest turns is the Johnnie Cochranesque lawyer, Billy Flynn, played with astounding panache by Obba Babatunde, who specializes in murderous attractive women who can pay him back in oh-so-many ways -- including money.
His numbers include "All I Care About" and the absolutely riotous "We Both Reached for the Gun," in which Roxie plays ventriloquist's dummy to the press so as to assist Billy in her own cockeyed defense. If this doesn't look like the press being O.J.'d, nothing does. What a topical hoot!
You just can't miss with this one. It's a winner top to bottom -- sets, hoofin', nasty costumes, more tushies than I've seen in a week or two and a bunch of great running jokes that wear well and are supremely well-presented. I wish I could name every one of these top-flight dancer-singer-actors in the cast, and the great jazz bands as well. But no. So I'll just say, wow!
Rating: * * * * *
Broadway touring musical revival. Choreographed by Ann Reinking, directed by Walter Bobbie, featuring Charlotte d'Amboise, Obba Babatunde, Janine Lammanna. Performances continue at 7 to night and Thursday, at 8 p.m. Friday, at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St. (Ticketmaster/852- 5000, groups at 847-1410.)