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Merry murderesses make for a musical 'Chicago'

Don't miss the latest offering at the Firehouse Theater

When is a jailhouse fun? When it's filled with tiers of comely women, all awaiting trail in the 1920s for murdering men who "had it coming." The vampish suspects prance, dance and sing out their stories in "Chicago," the current offering of Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre at the Firehouse Arts Center.

"Chicago" begins with vaudevillian Velma (Nicole Frydman) belting out "All That Jazz," joined by a chorus of singers and dancers. She found her husband in bed with her sister and killed them both although she claims she has no recollection of it. Soon we see Roxie (Joy Sherratt) shooting her lover when he announces he's leaving her. Roxie's hapless husband Amos (Sebastian Romeo) tries to take the blame but the truth is soon out. Roxie pleads self-defense.

The flashy inmates, who show plenty of leg along with their little black and white jail-stripe jackets, are cared for by Mama (Karol Strempke), the matron who shows her affection by arranging lawyers, trial dates and more, extracting money for each favor.

Velma and Roxie, who soon learn the advantages of being "celebrity criminals," are defended by smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn (David Judson). First and foremost, he guides them in dealing with the trench-coat-clad press, an all-important part of the trial process, which, like most of life, is a con game. One of the most delightful scenes has Roxie perched on Billy's lap as he controls her like a ventriloquist. The press is led by sob sister Susie Sunshine, who helps make Billy's point that appearances can be deceiving.

The plot rollicks along with clever lyrics, songs and dances, all imaginatively choreographed by Lois Grandi, in the style of Bob Fosse, with whom she worked on Broadway. The seven-man orchestra led by Pat Parr, who also serves as the announcer, balances perfectly with the singers.

This is the second production in Pleasanton of Pacific Coast Rep, which was just signed on by the city as the resident musical theater company of the Firehouse. Good job, Pleasanton! This and "Cabaret" in January were the perfect productions to rock the intimate space of the theater, which opened a year ago.

The show was sold out Saturday night and hopefully will be for the remaining performances as it continues through Sept. 4. Before the show and during intermission, the crowd wandered through the Harrington Art Gallery and the stunning building and outdoor venues.

Firehouse Arts Center is a great addition to downtown Pleasanton, as is the Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre.

Fun tale of murder and corruption

What: 'Chicago'

Who: Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre

Where: Firehouse Arts Center, 4444 Railroad Ave., Pleasanton

When: Through Sept. 4

Tickets: $18-$33

Information: www.firehousearts.org or call 931-4848.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Cindy
a resident of Danbury Park
on Aug 29, 2011 at 8:44 am

We attended Chicago at the Firehouse this weekend. Our seats were fabulous, the performance was marvelous. The actors were spot on. The energy thourghout the performance never waned. The dancing and singing was truly a delight. We loved the play and highly recommend going. You will not be disappointed.


Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Ironwood
on Aug 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I attended the matinee on Sunday and loved the show that I had seen many times before. I thought the Direction and Choreography by Lois Grandi was very creative utilizing all parts of a difficult set, especially the gigantic stair steps. I and my friend are theater people and appreciate good theater.
Since this is the second production I saw of this company, I question their choice of shows so far. Most of the audience was made up of senior citizens but there were some children in attendance as well. Due to the subject matter and strong language, I know that personally, I would of wanted to know if it was appropriate for children. My children are all adults and have attended theater all their life so they are never shocked. But.....that being said I wonder what others thought. By all means I encourage everyone to see this show but perhaps not for children.


Like this comment
Posted by Philomena
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Fantastic Show! High energy! Multitalented performers! and
Surprises!!!
My husband and I viewed the movie,Chicago, the next evening and compared the Firehouse Musical with the movie and are delighted to say KUDOS to Pacific Repertory Company in capturing the essence of the story, the profession peformances and adding the surprises!


Like this comment
Posted by Debbie
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Saw it on Saturday night and we all loved it! Such a joy to see theater of this caliber in our wonderful new Firehouse Arts Center. It was sold out on Saturday and I'm sure it will next weekend as well - don't miss it!


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