Former NFL football star Eddie George might be the draw to “Chicago” the musical, but it’s him as well as the cast and the show itself that make it worth your time this weekend at the Durham Performing Arts Center. It’s a thoroughly entertaining show, with a fast pace that makes you laugh and tap your foot along with the songs like “All That Jazz” and “Cell Block Tango.”
The story set in Roaring ’20s “Chicago” is centered on Roxie Hart, a showgirl with vaudeville dreams who shoots and kills her lover and tries to get away with it in a time of celebrity culture and scandalous trials and media following crime stories. Sounds familiar, so you can see why this plot has kept “Chicago” on Broadway for so long. The cast in the tour includes those who performed roles in the Broadway production as well, inlcuding George and Dylis Croman as Roxie.
Croman is funny and has great comedic timing, pulling off physical comedy and choreography easily. Terra C. MacLeod is also great as Velma Kelly, another woman on trial for killing a man. Velma is outshined by Roxie, who is in turn outshined by the latest celebrity criminal.
If you’ve never seen Bob Fosse’s choreography, here’s your chance. Also, the orchestra is on stage, and a character itself. A combination of tour musicians and DPAC’s local musicians, the set design featuring the orchestra is an important reminder of how essential the music is to a musical. The simple set works well, with the orchestra at the center but also somehow in the background.
Seeing George, a Heisman Trophy winner, as the lawyer Billy Flynn shows that we are not just who we were, but who we continue to become. As Roxie and Velma display at the end of the production, there’s always another act.
George proves that he can be a star on stage as well as the field, showcasing that talent during an especially entertaining number with Croman in “We Both Reached for the Gun.” The number is humorous because of the marionette-style choreography but also the commentary on theatrical press conferences about trials. This satire of one time period certainly extends to today, too.
GO & DO
WHEN: Through Sunday, May 14
WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St., Durham