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A dynamite cast revisits 'Chicago'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Chesapeake Music Hall's Chicago, which runs through Sept. 13, joins a winning trend that includes last year's Oscar-winning movie and the successful revival that is in its seventh year on Broadway.

In 1975 - after years of rights negotiations - director-choreographer Bob Fosse brought his musical-vaudeville concept to Broadway with catchy tunes by John Kander and crisp, satirical lyrics by Fred Ebb.

Chicago tells the story of two tough jazz-age chorines who gained celebrity after murdering their lovers. Fosse's wife, dancer-actress Gwen Verdon, was the original Roxie Hart. Last year, Renee Zellweger won an Oscar in the role, and on Broadway Melanie Griffith is now Roxie. Chita Rivera was the original Velma Kelly, a role played by Catherine Zeta Jones in last year's hit movie.

In Chesapeake Music Hall's production, local star Nori Morton makes Roxie her own, adding a disarming vulnerability and wry sophistication, communicating in her knowing smile the intriguing essence of this manipulative, murdering character. In her knockout costumes, petite blond Morton looks right for the part and displays awesome chemistry with her co-star - Sherry Kay Anderson, who plays Velma Kelly.

Anderson - the Chesapeake Music Hall's owner and general manager and the show's producer-director and choreographer - tops off her quadruple duty by starring as Velma, who murdered her husband and her sister. Anderson, in a dark bob, dazzles in the "All that Jazz" opener, and she brings a hard-boiled honesty to Velma, along with strong dancing and singing. Her imposing Velma complements Morton's Roxie, their contrasting sizes adding flair to their dance numbers.

Holding her own with these leading ladies, 21-year-old Jessica Hyman romps through the role of Matron "Mama" Morton, a character at least twice her age. Hyman's vocal prowess and infectious vivacity are displayed in a show-stopping "When You're Good to Mama" and in her "Class" duet with Anderson.

Although Chicago is primarily a vehicle for its two leading ladies, the Music Hall's version boasts two strong male performances. Clearly enjoying his role as sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn, Dean Davis is much livelier and twice the fun of the film's Flynn, Richard Gere. Davis shines in "All I Care About," and defines strong partnering as he manipulates an incredibly puppet-like, lip-synching Roxie on his lap, while he ventriloquist-like sings a falsetto "We Both Reached for the Gun."

H. Alan Hoffman brings a touching sincerity and unsuspected depth to the schlemiel role of Roxie's husband, Amos Hart. His singing of "Mister Cellophane" takes on genuine pathos, becoming another high point of the show.

As innocent convicted murderess Hunyak, Beth Alexander adds another strong performance to her growing Music Hall list.

Kudos to Jodi Adkins, Anne DeMichele and Nicole Anderson for skillfully executing the exciting choreography.

To reserve seats for Chicago, call 800-406-0306 or 410-626-7515.

Farewell, Dunner

Seems it is time to bid a fond farewell to Annapolis Symphony Orchestra's former maestro Leslie B. Dunner, who leaves Annapolis this week for Chicago. We'll miss his dedication to the many students he inspired during his tenure, his unique grace on the podium, and the elegance he brought to the orchestra and to Maryland Hall audiences.

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