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December 07, 1977 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-12-07

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The Michigan Doily-Wednesday, December 7, 1977-Page 5;

Chicago'

a

powderkeg

By SUSAN BARRY

"CHICAGO" strutted into Detroit last week and Detroit
stood up and took notice. From the first sultry horn
notes above the stage, shadowed by huge blow-ups of slightly
pornographic portraits, the musical at the Fisher Theatre
wound its delightful decadence around an enchanted audien-
ce.
Bob Fosse, who won an Oscar for directing Cabaret, has
once again let his grotesque imagination run wild in another
depraved society. This time, instead of Berlin in World War
II, he has chosen Chicago in the late 1920's.
The announcer in the beginning of the show promises us a
story of murder, adultery, and depravity, all of which go
wickedly unpunished. And indeed there is actually a plot to
this musical. Roxie Hart (Penny Worth) is a thoroughly un-
fulfilled wife of a chunky garage mechanic, who dreams of
making it big in Vaudeville and sleeps around a lot. She
shoots a lover after a quarrel and her husband agrees to take
the rap until he discovers that it is not a burgler but their fur-
niture salesman, and off to jail goes Roxie. The rest of the
story concerns Roxie's adventures in jail with various other
inmates, and a fast-talking lawyer who has a perfect record
for changing justice into greenbacks.
GEOFFREY WEBB, standing in for Jerry Orbach, was
fine as the lawyer Billy Flynn, who, for $5,000, could turn a
courtroom into a circus with the defendant in the center ring.
"If Jesus Christ had lived in Chicago and came to me with
$5,000," says a modest Flynn, "things would have worked out
different."
But it is Penny Worth as Roxie who grabs the show by the
tail and hangs on. In "Funny Honey" she is an irresponsible
boozer who muses while her husband explains to the police
how he shot the "burgler." In "We Both Reached for the
Gun" she is a limp dummy to Flynn's marvelous ventrilo-
quism while he explains her motive to the press for her.
But it is in "Roxie," the best solo number in the show,
that Worth transcends her one-dimensional characterization
and becomes, in the introductory monologue, the woman who
just wants to be loved. She takes her dumpy husband because
he idolizes her and makes her feel like a kid. And she dreams
of being a star, with idolizing fans and her name in a news-
paper headline.
WORTH'S VOICE is deep, throaty, and magnificent, and
her dancing is even better. She is equally as appealing with a
wicked leer as with a pouting frown. Her presence is vibrant
and seductive.
Haskell Gordon, as the balloonish husband Amos, is as
pathetic as his wife is wild. He is willing to give Roxie every
break but he is perceptive enough to be heartbroken and
angry when she deceives him. His song, "Mister Cello-
phane," performed in tattered overcoat and clownishly large
shoes, expresses his despair at being so non-descript that
everyone looks right past him. When Gordon shuffles self-
apologetically off the stage it is with a sense of a moral
casualty,,and unrecognized goodness that is trampled under
the feet of more aggressive passions.
Carolyn Kirsch is a sassy Velma Kelly, one of Roxie's
inmates. She opens the show with an astonishing bump and
grind in "All That jazz," and performs a positively acrobatic

Chicago
Directed and Choreographed by Bob Fosse
Fisher Theatre, Detroit
November 29-December31
Velma Kelly ........................... Carolyn Kirsch
Roxie Hart ............. .............. Penny Worth
Amos Hart............................. Haskell Gordon
Matron.........................Edye Byrde
Bill Flynn ........... Geoffrey Webb (Jerry Orbach)

dance routine in "I Can't Do it Alone." Her characterization
is often more obscene than sensual, as it usually lacks
Roxie's innocence and is delivered with a bristly, crackling
voice.
Edye Byrde is a husky Matron, whose "When You're
Good to Mama" accentuates her warm-hearted greed.
FOSSE peoples the stage with dancers in grotesque
costumes and make-up to emphasize the licentious atmo-
sphere. The band is placed on a platform above the stage and
the conductor addresses the audience several times from a
large moon-shaped microphone, as though it is a twenties
radio show.
Several of the dance numbers are particularly creative.
Billy Flynn's introductory song entitled "All I Care About" is
a campy number with girls in bikini's encircling Flynn with
large pink feathered plumes while he strips to shorts and gar-
ters.
And Roxie's trial, called "Razzle Dazzle," is a full-blown
circus, with David Kottke protraying each member of the
jury in turn. The several ingenius poses he strikes, with the
help of various mustaches and facial props, are simply
hilarious.
THE "Cell Block Tango," although I have seen it per-
formed with more spirit, is one of the most cleverly written
songs in the show.
The dialogue itself is predictably inane. The jokes are, in
most cases, notably unfunny and become brief pauses in the
anticipation of the next dance number.
Occasionally the social commentary, institutionalized
immorality contrasting with individual immorality, becomes
a bit heavy, as one inmate is actually hung in silhouette on-
stage.
And attempts to show that all that sleeping around isn't
always so much fun are inherent in songs like "Class" where
the Matron and Velma bemoan the lack of manners in the
current society, and "Nowadays," where a deserted Roxie
sings of the emptiness that informal attachments inevitably
bring.
The end is a gratuitous salute to the audience by Velma
and Roxie that seems strangely incongruous with the plot of
the musical. It seems to be an acknowledgement that the
singing and dancing takes precedence over the plot and
characters. But even so, "Chicago" is a sensuous powderkeg
of a musical. Its sentimental sensationalism and pure raun-
chiness has earned it a devotion which will certainly ensure it
a long run in the future.,

Dance concert to air

Graduate dancers enjoy themselves as they practice for this production of "Moving Right Along", a series of three dance
concerts to be presented in the Dance Departments studio theatre (second floor of the Dance Building, 1310 N. University
Court-next to CCRB). Shows will be Dec. 9-11 at 8 p.m.

Hammer records lukewarm funk

ByMARK BEYER
THE LATEST musical contribution
by jazz keyboardist Jan Hammer
is Melodies (Nemporer JZ35003). The
simplicity of the title is matched by the
contents therein. The new group con-
sists of leader Hammer controlling
electronic synthesizers and pianos
drumwork and vocals, along with Tony
Smith, Steve Kindler, and Fernando
Saunders contributing drums, violin,
and guitars respectively.
The major fault of this slick sounding
collection is Saunders' disappointing
lead vocals. The mood of the whole al-
bum comes off as a pop white-funk
mish-mash that doesn't live up to its
potential. Saunders tries in vain to sing
like Stevie Wonder, but- isn't good
enough to pull it off. In fact, the whole
album attempts a Songs in the Key of
Life flavor and sound. The singing up-
stages Hammer's artistry on most
numbers.
"I Sing" starts off with some attrac-
tive guitar picking, and Hammer doing
his jazzy thing. Thep.thesinging starts,
and the guitarist starts squeaking his
chord changes horribly. The song is a
minor-key drifter with an upbeat
change to major in the middle, but alas,
the Stevie Wonder vocals again are a
turn-off. "Honey 5379" is an upbeat lit-
tle ditty that show cases Hammer's
keyboard artistry, but also has a tinge
of commercialism. Occasionally, when
it tries to be "sonic" or "spacy," it just
doesn't get off the ground. The outer-
space noises are pretty overused, and
Hammer should know better than to use
them without giving them an appropri-
ate imaginative twist. Background
hand-clapping 'matched with quasar
noises is not appropriate.

Side Two is better. It opens with.
"Don't You Know," a breezy, ethereal
composition that includes beautiful syn-
thesizer work and perfect, sparse per-
cussion. The vocals are restricted and
smooth, and make this one of the best
selections on the album.
Side Two, band two is "Just For
Fun," and starts off promisingly. But
then the singing starts, and the fun is
over. Musically, it's the most success-
ful funky piece on the album, with
strong rhythms and peppery dashes,
but Steve Kindler's vocals just don't
have the range or basic appeal of, say,
Earth, Wind, and Fire. The electric vio-
lin solo is obviously based on the new
Ponty style. The song title itself is re-
peated in cold, breathy harmonies
through 90 per cent of the song, which
becomes very tiring.
THE NEXT SONG, "Hyperspace," is
an instrumental, and the best piece on
the album. Written by Steve Kindler,
who multitracks himself playing cello,
electric guitar, and both electric and
acoustic violins, it also shows off some
fine work by Hammer, both of them
shining on effectively sinister key
changes. It ended too soon.
Melodies ends with a splendid Jan
Hammer instrumental, "Your Love."
Hammer uses an acoustic piano, simul-
taneously with his electronic hardware,
and the effect is very nice, smooth and
quiet, a real relaxer. Hammer, laid-
back and throughful, succeeds on this
warming array of skillful progressions
and key drifts.

All added up, Melodies is an fairly
decent album. Hammer hjas taken a
drastic step away from his jazzy home-
land, and into the territory of funk,
rhythm and blues, and doesn't succeed
all too well. His horrid vocalist Saun-
ders brings the albums stock down
about 50 per cent. I can't understand
why Hammer would allow so mediocre
a vocal treatment to permeate his
work. The pseudo-funk is the weakest
musical element.
Jan Hammer also produced the
album, and did a commendable job.
However, I noticed a few embarrassing
bloopers, such as a clipped-off end fade
and a couple of sloppy mix spots that
prove that Hammer is no Alan Parsons.
Hammer should rely more on his own
potentially brilliant improvisations and
less on what's selling on the commer-
cial market. Melodies has several good
moments, but just sounds a bit too
stale, throughout.
LSAT
WE CAN INCREASE
YOUR LSAT SCORE
Call or Write: '
University LSAT Preparation Service Inc.
2200 Fuller Rd., Suite 9128
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105
313-995-4014
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University of Michigan Gospel Choir
OPEN HOUSE
for
New Members
Now is the time to join
Thurs., Dec. 8,1977-6:30-8:00 p.m.
South Quad Afro Lounge
Information 764-7442

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