ALL JAZZED UP: Kristen Brownstone's Roxie Hart consults with her lawyer, Billy Flynn (Tim Reynolds) in 'Chicago.' Roxie Music
When you go to see Chicago, you’re probably going for classic show tunes like “All That Jazz,” “Roxie” and “Razzle Dazzle,” or maybe for the scantily clad performers. Either way, all these things abound in City Lights Theater’s lively if surprisingly understated take on the Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb and John Kander’s musical.
Chicago tells the by-now-familiar story of Roxie Hart (played by Kristen Brownstone) and her quest for fame while trying to get off the hook for murdering her boyfriend. More than a clothesline for music and dancing, the musical provides a critique of celebrity culture and a cynical view of American justice. “Uncle Sam is just and fair, and he wouldn’t put me in jail, because I’m innocent,” cries an unfortunate “murderess,” not crafty enough to worm her way out of punishment. The audience can only shake their heads knowingly—of course Uncle Sam isn’t fair.
It’s easy to get caught up in the infectious music, but the unsympathetic characters remind us that this is really a dark satire. Interestingly, there are a few points in the City Lights production that take a mixed-media approach, filling in the action with grainy, newsreel-style projections. This places an extra level of alienation between the audience and the characters—an intriguing idea, even if the execution is awkward.