FREDONIA - The Department of Theater and Dance at the State University of New York at Fredonia takes a very adult look at one of the classic hit shows in their current production of "Chicago," by John Kander and Fred Ebb.
The show is the story of how people manipulate public opinion and takes a cynical look at the many connections between the justice system and good old fashioned show business.
From the opening chords of the overture, the pit orchestra of student musicians caught the perfect tone quality of rinky-tink jazz from the 1920s, and set us up for a most enjoyable evening. The conductor was Paula Holcomb, who accompanied the singers with great skill.
Everyone in the cast was talented. Everyone who sang knew how, and everyone who danced was good at it. The set by Theresa Pierce was spectacular, and changed in moments, while always in perfect sync with the on-going plot. The costumes were a tiny bit prim, compared to professional productions, but they were beautiful and this is a school show. There was still plenty of sizzle. Costumes were designed by Dixon Reynolds.
Among the outstanding talents was Deanna Jelardi, whose earthy Velma Kelly was a driving force, throughout. Madison Osgood's Roxy Hart was a bit lighter in tone, but powerful all the same.
Clayton Howe might have been a bit slimier as shyster lawyer Billy Flynn, but he looked great and sang beautifully. Nick Stevens might have allowed a gentler singing tone to go with his role as the doormat husband of Roxy, but he acted with great charm.
Sophia Howes had a powerful voice and gave the role of prison matron Mama Morton the kind of grit and grab that it requires. It was a fine performance, indeed.
Director and choreographer Paul Mockovak had many original ideas. Just for example, he cast only a single juror for Roxy's big trial for murder, with the actor changing hats, wigs, and other props, to portray the entire panel of twelve. The group dancing could have stood some tightening, but the dance ideas were ''Fosse Light,'' and that is good for a school show.
This is a very entertaining show, and has some intellectual heft, as well. Because of its cynicism and its adult themes and language, it's probably not the best choice for young audience members, although they probably hear worse on the school bus.
''Chicago'' continues through Oct. 27 on weekends, in the Robert W. Marvel Theatre, on the campus of SUNY Fredonia.