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Guild's 'Chicago' brings glitz to Little Theatre

By Andrea Bond

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Light Opera Guild's performance of "Chicago" is a real killer -- every bit as fun as the shootings and stabbings gleefully carried out by the showgirls in the musical.

The theme might be a bit twisted, but it's all meant in good fun. Anyone can see that the cast, crew and orchestra are having a blast.

In "Chicago," crimes of passion take center stage amidst the glitz and glamour of the Jazz Age. Set in its Prohibition-era namesake city, the musical takes a satirical look at corruption in the criminal justice system and the public's fascination with the "celebrity criminal."

The story revolves around the rivalry of two women, chorus girl Roxie Hart and vaudeville star Velma Kelly, who are incarcerated together while awaiting trial on separate murder charges.

The production's greatest strengths are its brilliant choreography and memorable songs. Several standout vocal performances put the icing on the cake. This is the musical that produced such favorites as "All That Jazz" and "Cell Block Tango."

The Guild pulled together a talented cast for this production. As Velma, Toni Pilato radiates star power, and Katlin Kouns owns the role of the ditzy-but-scheming Roxie. Michael Gore is delightfully seedy as defense attorney Billy Flynn. Kristen Pennington's stern prison matron, Mama, commands the stage. Tim Whitener, as Roxie's cuckolded and meek husband, Amos Hart, brings depth and complexity to the role.

"Chicago" is one of the longest-running American musicals in Broadway history -- its ongoing popularity fueled in part by the Oscar-winning 2002 film of the same name.

The musical is based on a 1926 play by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, who was inspired by the real-life criminals and crimes she wrote about for the newspaper. The adage "crime does not pay" is not the point; rather, the point is how much is the public willing to pay to get the dirt on these lovely, headline-grabbing murderesses.

Additional "Chicago" performances are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Friday and Aug. 10, with matinee performances at 3 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 11. Reserved-seating tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre Box Office or by calling 304-343-2287.


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