Musical theater lovers can often remember a particular show or moment when they realized their adoration for live song and dance. For me it was when I saw Hairspray in London. Tracy Turnblad was doing the twist with her gang of friend from The Corny Collins Show while singing “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” I remember looking up and feeling like I was with her in the 60s. I knew Tracy, I could see the beads of sweat on her plump cheeks, the passion in her eyes. I was in love with everything about it.
I haven’t had a moment that truly transported me into a show until the “We Both Reached for the Gun” scene during opening night of Chicago at Village Theatre. As Billy Flynn (played by Timothy McCuen Piggee) puppetted Roxie Hart (played by Taryn Darr) on his knee amongst a crowd of reporters, I had the same overwhelming feeling of, “this is it, this is as good as it gets.” And I’ve seen it on Broadway.
Piggee and Darr put Hollywood actors Rene Zellweger and Richard Gere to shame in their portrayal of a murderess and wealthy lawyer. This particular scene went above and beyond. The energy was high, the notes were hit and the acting was on point. I would go back just to see this precious moment again.
As a whole, the show is wildly entertaining with songs and choreographed dances running back to back. I’m a big fan of Richard Gray who playes Amos Hart (or should I say Mr. Cellophane) beautifully. He is the moral compass and the heart of the show and he carries both well. Velma Kelly (played by Desiree Davar) and Matron Mama Morton (played by Shaunyce Omar) added that “razzle dazzle” the show is known for. Both are phenomenal signers. Omar gave me goose bumps during her first appearance. In the end, however, it was Mr. Piggee who stole the show. His presence was magnetic and his timing was perfect.
My only critiques were a few missteps during dance routines and I wish the cell block tango ladies were a little meaner, scarier and tougher. But the costumes and set made up for it.
All in all, I wouldn’t miss this show for the world. The Village Theatre offers a more intimate experience that is incomparable to the big Seattle theaters. The pulse of the show runs through your veins, and “all the jazz” will remind you why you fell in love with theater in the first place.