The Satirical and Tumultuous Production of Chicago



Caleb Kelch

With a glow of illuminant yet bare lighting, the KFAC stage was transformed into this unique take on “Chicago” and its many locations throughout the show. From the jailhouse to the courtroom to Billy Flynn’s office, the layout captured the show before the performance even began.

From Nov. 15-17, Millikin University’s School of Theater and Dance (SOTAD) produced a hopeful reincarnation of the beloved classic “Chicago.”

Under the direction of Sean Morrissey, who also assumed the role of choreographer, “Chicago” brought a vibrant yet murderous sense of life to campus. With extravagant shades and illustrious clothing that sometimes happened to be lacking, “Chicago” spells out the lustful and deviant culture that has helped drive this crime-heavy musical into a beloved megahit.

Morrissey explores the depths of this well-known tale and delivers an abstract portrayal filled with extreme satire, robust emotions, and quirky anecdotes.

SOTAD’s take on “Chicago” delivered an odd performance of highly talented individuals. With Hope Klessig and Maura Fawley as Velma Kelly and Roxy Hart, respectively, the two presented characters that defied the odds, yet lacked balance at times. Klessig’s portrayal of Velma was incredible but somehow fell short at times. Meanwhile, Fawley’s Roxy felt a bit exasperated in the first half, but after the intermission, it was as if everything clicked and thus, Roxy Hart was born.

Neither Klessig or Fawley failed at their performance nor did anyone else, but the entire cast possessed this awkwardness between them.

The opening scene, “All That Jazz” is supposed to capture the audience and create this large mass of excitement for what’s about to occur, but no sense of grand excitement was established. Instead, clunky choreography accompanied flawed and tireless vocals.

Throughout the first act, the cast possessed a tired attitude and showed many signs of unpreparedness or rather an absence of connection or miscommunication of cues.

These mistakes and stalling of flowingness caused awkward transitions and problems to be left unresolved.

When Spencer Avery, a freshman playing the part of Billy Flynn, took the stage, everything went right. His presence could be spotted a mile away, and his voice sold the character. With excellent acting, Avery commanded the audience with his brilliant rendition of “Razzle Dazzle” and allowed for Fawley and Klessig to be closer to reaching their full potential.

Avery’s interactions with Michael Santos, as Amos Hart, were phenomenal and seemingly one of the greatest parts of the show. Leading into “Mister Cellophane,” the pivotal moment for Amos Hart as a character, the audience received quite possibly one of the best performances of the evening. Santos delivered this energy that was effortless yet well-prepared, and vocally, he tackled what he could chew by belting out delightful and depressing lines that allowed his character to have gone full-circle.

The secondary characters took the stage with an immense sense of passion and confidence that was elegantly produced by Colin McGonagle as Mary Sunshine, Santos, Avery, and the Master of Ceremonies played by Will Barden.

These roles took control of the show and allowed the flaws to balance out. By the second act, the show instantly became better and more entertaining. The feeling of a constant lull drifted away and each character became more confident, and the entire cast clicked when on stage.

Millikin University boasts one of the best theater and dance programs in the area as well as in the country, and rightfully so, because “Chicago” was not awful, but it lacked character and contained elements of being too satirical.

“Chicago” has this incredible ability to be brilliant, murderous, mischievous, and satirical, but Morrissey’s take on satire became too much. Lines that were funny became irrelevant, and actions that began as humorous left as annoying due in part to the constant stretching of jokes and repetitiveness of concepts that weren’t all that funny in the first place.

Millikin’s fall production had the potential to be legendary, yet seemingly did not meet those expectations.

“Chicago” was good, but not brilliant. Flaws were spotted and confessed, and the production had amazing attributes, such as the lighting, the orchestra, and the layout of the stage along with outstanding acting by Avery, Santos, McGonagle, and all of the Cell Block Tango ladies. Even Klessig and Fawley did a miraculous job, but overall, things just didn’t click.

If only there was a next time or another week of shows for the cast and crew to redeem themselves. They were so close to something spectacular, yet fell short of reaching the potential they possessed and were expected to reach. Individually, the show was incredible, but as a collective, the production lacked balance and communication.