Thunder vs. Bulls: Five takeaways from OKC's win vs. ChicagoMillwood High School pulls basketball team off court amid COVID 'super-spreader' at Community Christian

NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Shiny "Chicago" takes the stage at Jewel Box

A brassy, sassy take on the classic Kander & Ebb musical opened the 58th season at Jewel Box Theatre. Directed by Artistic Director Chuck Tweed and presented with a live jazz trio on stage, the production offered broad comedic interpretations with a slyly impudent undertone. The play was written by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse with music by John Kander and lyrics by Ebb.

Tiffany Tuggle as Velma Kelly and Emily Pace as Roxie Hart are the two femme fatales of the story. Tuggle gave us a ‘hard as nails’ Velma that balanced the gritty sex appeal of Pace’s Roxie. Tuggle’s Kelly was territorial and smart, edgy and angry. Pace gave us a Roxie who is manipulative and predatory in the nicest and chilliest way possible. She drops the mask from nice-to-know Roxie to knife-to-back Roxie with sudden smoothness.

These two roles fundamentally carry the show; the mannerisms and personal styles of Velma and Roxie define the ambience and context of the place and the plot. Tweed has used his leading ladies well, and the combination offers a less glossy, more deliberately comic take on the show.

Aaron Kellert was sublimely slick as Billy Flynn, the shyster with a smarmy smile and a heart of pure granite. Played as a classically self-centered ambulance chaser, Flynn could have stopped mid-defense to pass out business cards to the audience and it would have surprised no one.

Jon-Philip Olson played the victim—and/or heel—Fred Casely, killed early on and restored to toe-tapping afterlife for Roxie’s trial testimony. Jackie Smola gave us a hard-edged and soft-hearted Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, the jail-house guardian of girls gone wrong.

Perhaps the evening’s most delightful performance was a little gem of a moment offered by Terry Veal as Roxie’s unappreciated spouse Amos Hart. Veal applied clown makeup on stage without a mirror while singing “Mr. Cellophane” in an affecting homage to classic sad-face clowns like Red Skelton and Emmett Kelly, Sr. His “invisibility” was touching, believable, and unforgettable.

Filling out the cast was a quintet of hot male dancers who also filled smaller roles, and a quintet of hot jailhouse mamas. In the often underappreciated role of the gossip columnist—sorry, “feature reporter”—Mary Sunshine, Justine Rowe sang charmingly and gave a pleasantly straightlaced, if somewhat unexpectedly revealing, performance.

Tweed and choreographer Shawna Linck have spread the story all over the room. Beware if you sit in the front row—you may find yourself participating in the show! Christopher Sieker’s costumes provided period references and serious razzle-dazzle. The basic set included the same “Chicago” sign that Jewel Box used 30 years ago when the show last graced the JBT stage. Lights, always a challenge, were well used to pick up yet not be overwhelmed by the glittery bits on the costumes. Sound was well balanced for the most part, though once or twice the dialog or the pitch of a song fell low enough that it was hard to follow.

“Chicago” plays at the Jewel Box Theatre on the campus of First Christian Church. Curtain is at 8:00 Thursday-Saturday and 2:30 on Sunday through September 13. The theatre is at 3700 N. Walker in Oklahoma City; tickets may be purchased on line through the website or by calling (405) 521-1786.