Temple Theatre review: Chicago

My wife is not only a “Chicago” fan, she’s a Bob Fosse fanatic.
So who better to sit next to me for the opening of Temple Theatre’s first show of the 2010-2011 season … not that I’m a “Chicago” slouch myself. Having known my wife 13 years now, it’s only inevitable that I would not only come to appreciate Fosse, but memorize the words and music to “Chicago,” which pops up often when her iPod is put on shuffle mode.
Despite lacking the grandeur you’ll see on large-scale productions of the musical, the Temple cast does a fantastic job of bringing the spirit, the humor and the sultriness of “Chicago” to life. I left satisfied and humming the tunes (the gun, the gun, the gun, the gun), but more importantly, Mrs. Fosse herself enjoyed it as well.
High praise, I assure you.
First, the great stuff.
Two performances stood out in Thursday night’s production … both of them coming from Temple newcomers with secondary roles.
Patty Cucco is both funny and commanding as Mama Morton, the jailhouse warden who — for a fee — gets her prisoners what they need and when they need it. The New York native sounds every bit like a New York native, and she steals the show in every scene she appears in.
Then there’s Galloway Stevens, who plays a handful of roles, but most notably is the night’s emcee. Stevens performs as if he was trained by Fosse himself, perfecting the subtle nuances the legend was famous for — this according to my Fosse expert.
Both Cucco and Stevens are a treat, especially to those who thought the talent ended after the Big 3 — Roxie, Velma and Billy.
Not that they’re slouches. If it appears that Lea Kohl (Roxie), Temple artistic director Peggy Taphorn (Velma) and Corey Brunish (Billy Flynn) have done this before … they have. The three carry the show effortlessly and give the feel that you’re watching “Chicago” in a city like … well, Chicago. Or New York.
And when it comes down to it, that’s the challenge the Temple crew had to meet in order to pull it off and make this production a success.
“Chicago” is one of those musicals that almost everybody who’ll attend in the next three weeks has already seen … and many know well.
To have a theater in Sanford, North Carolina, take on this challenge and not mess it up is admirable enough. That they manage to put on a hell of a show is just impressive.
Sure, there are a few missteps. They’re minor, though. Not everybody appears to grasp the “nuances” a Fosse addict might notice, but, again, that’s picking hairs.
The ensemble does have its standouts as well in Jonathan Bethea, Heather Howard and Daniel Joyce. And I enjoyed the Mary Sunshine character immensely … even after the reveal.
So, see “Chicago.” Good attendance in the next three weeks (Thursday appeared sold out) will convince Temple to continue the big productions. They’ve proven they can pull it off.

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