Nancy Sasso Janis
Landmark Community Theatre opened their first musical of the 2015 season on Saturday night. 'Chicago' runs through May 3 at the historic Thomaston Opera House. Even if you have seen another production of the Bob Fosse musical, the dancing (and everything else) in this Landmark version makes it one that you truly do not want to miss.
Foster Reese not only directed the talented cast but also served as their choreographer, as he has often been known to do. The cast of 'Chicago' had the pleasure of working with and learning from two Broadway veterans during rehearsals. Carolyn Kirsch was Velma Kelly in the first National touring company and worked directly with Bob Fosse. Mary Ann Lamb played June in the original company of the 1996 revival with Anne Reinking and Bebe Neuwirth, the version currently running on Broadway. The cast members will forever have the stories that these dancers told about Mr. Fosse and the mounting of this iconic show. The ladies worked on the choreography for final three dance numbers of the Landmark show.
The quality of the dancing, the look of the show and the talented cast members made me appreciate this show more than I have in the past. Mr. Reese made some excellent choices in his staging, especially during Roxie's trial scene. Paul Revaz designed the simple set of a black staircase that separated the halves of the onstage orchestra under the direction of TJ Thompson. The talented music director became a part of the action a couple of times and this orchestra was one of the best he has ever assembled.
Aurora Montenero designed the all-black costumes that definitely set the mood, as did the outstanding lighting designed by Alex Dunn. Organist Juan Cardona Jr. also helped set the mood for the audience before the show began on the beautiful theatre organ. After one major sound issue on opening night, the rest of the show ran smoothly.
The gushing about the cast begins here. Dan Beaudoin showed off his amazing range as reporter Mary Sunshine and the uncredited and dreamy Moses Beckett performed as one of the wonderful male dancers as well as the doomed Fred Casely. Other male dancers included Nathan Rodriguez, Shelby Davis, Jonathan Zalaski, and Naugatuck native James Goggin.
The Cell Block girls included Erin McAvoy (Murderess,) Katie Brunetto (Annie,) Amber Mason (Murderess,) Caitlin Barra (Kitty/Murderess,) Jean-Marie McGrath (Mona,) Malie Grasmere (June,) Martha Martin (Liz,) Leslie Bacon (Murderess,) Beth Harvision (Murderess,) Leanna Scaglione (Hunyak,) Erika O'Keefe (Murderess) and Jennifer Bunger (Murderess.)
The wonderful Chuck Stango made the most of the relatively small role of Roxie's long-suffering husband Amos. Clad in a frumpy sweater and white gloves, his "Mr. Cellophane" brought down the house and made everyone notice him. WATR's Tom Chute returned to the stage to play one of his favorite characters, the slick lawyer Billy Flynn. He brought considerable charm to the role and his smooth voice and fine dancing made "All I Care About" and "Razzle Dazzle" a pleasure to behold.
Waterbury resident Carletha Hawley returned to the TOH to play prison matron Mama Morton and wow, can this lady sing! Emily Diedrich returned to the stage after a maternity hiatus to play the role of Roxie Hart. Janina Gonzalez made her Landmark debut in her dream role of Velma Kelly. These two triple threats were equally matched and turned in amazing performances as the rival murderesses.
Landmark Executive Director Jeffrey P. Dunn honored Opera House Commission Board Member and long-time volunteer "costume maven" Barbara Piscopo before the show with a video tribute and framed certificate. He also informed her onstage that a much-needed washer and dryer would be added to the costume shop. A reception had been held in the costumer's honor before the doors to the house opened. Ms. Piscopo has costumed over 100 shows on the opera house stage. Upcoming volunteer opportunities at the TOH include running crew, ushers, box office attendants, marketing and office assistant and construction and set builders.