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Bainbridge’s ‘Chicago’ bold, brassy, brazen
After teaching and producing theater for decades, Stephen Fogell knows how important a dramatic exit can be. He waited 10 years for the chance to produce “Chicago” on the BPA stage, and as fate would have it, the spring production now doubles as the final act of Fogell’s tenure as BPA’s creative director.
Fogell resigned this month after directing more than 70 mainstage and theatre school productions. His grand finale rests on “Chicago,” the sassy Broadway smash that celebrates the seamier side of society circa the 1920s, with its lust for liquor, fame, money and power. Everything about the story is audacious, which means pulling it off requires some serious pluck.
Enter, the mistress of moxie, Roxie Hart, played by Rebekah Witt, last seen belting out on the BPA stage as Ulla in “The Producers.” Like a moth to flame, Roxie will stop at nothing to feel the heat of the spotlight, including murder, which she then tries to pin on Amos, her milquetoast husband portrayed by Justin Lynn.
In the way stands the queen of the cabaret, Velma Kelly. In a gutsy move of her own, Bainbridge Island’s Daniela Ferdico Fagét showed up at “Chicago” auditions to accompany a friend. When the friend didn’t show, she tried out anyway, landing the role of Velma.
“It’s sort of my mid-life crisis,” the mother of two said of her first BPA performance and the first theater role she’s tackled since college.
“I thought I might get an ensemble role,” she said. Drawing on her work teaching at Bainbridge Ballet, Fagét brings aplomb, and some fancy footwork, to the stage.
Velma and Roxie clash while holed up in the slammer, each on murder charges. Playing one against the other to her own advantage is cell block matron “Mama” Morton. Barbara Deering, her band having once opened for Ozzie Osborne, brings a surplus of sass to the role.
Mama introduces Roxie to Velma’s avaricious lawyer Billy Flynn, played by DeSean Halley, last seen in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Flynn’s skill set pivots on knowing how to spin a narrative and the fraudulent sob story he concocts makes Roxie the darling of the media, which is led by reporter Mary Sunshine. Marilyn Dearsley is comical in the role of the upbeat
The production, in the second week of a three-week run, gets a PG-13 rating, no thanks to the work of costumer Barbara Klingberg. One might think the women’s skimpy attire would require less work than street clothes, but all those baubles, beads and embellishments don’t get there by magic.
Klingberg, who received a degree in technical theater in New York City, worked on costumes for the original production of “Chicago.”
“In the Cell Block Tango, the girls wore prison raincoats,” she said. “They were trench coats made of fishnet gauze and black vinyl stripes.”
Klingberg, known for her work with Ovation! Musical Theatre, counted 111 pieces that she and assistant Kathy Doll and volunteers whipped up for the BPA rendition.
With both costuming and set design, Fogell sought to ratchet up the 20s-era look to the production.
The action sizzles on the steel-hearted set, which deftly provides room for that oh-so-seductive spotlight and plenty of dark corners for murder, mayhem and all that jazz. The live orchestra adds brass and class. Musical Director Chris Kolbegger had plenty to work with in the powerhouse vocals department and Joanna Hardie’s choreography weaves spectacle throughout. The combined talent quotient of cast and crew adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
If you hear a loud bang at the end of the show, it may be another murder, or it just might be the sound of Fogell, exiting stage left.
All. That. Jazz.
“Chicago” runs May 13-29 at BPA, with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Directed by Steven Fogell with musical direction by Chris Kolbegger and choreography by Joanna Hardie.
Tickets are $25 for adults, and $19 for seniors, students, youth, military, and teachers, and may be purchased online, by phone at 842-8569 or in person at BPA, 200 Madison Ave.
For more information, visit at www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org.