Have you been sleeping on Reed Sigmund?
A longtime actor at Children’s Theatre Company, Sigmund has had a peerless summer and fall, first as a blunt toddler in Jungle Theater’s world premiere of “Stinkers” and now as Amos Hart in Theater Latté Da’s “Chicago.” The hapless husband of scheming Roxie Hart, Amos is the only sincere person in a deeply cynical show. It’s always been a great role (John C. Reilly was nominated for an Oscar for the 2002 movie), but it’s elevated in Sigmund’s sweetly sad performance, with his halting attempts at dancing as evidence that Amos does not fit in the acid-soaked world of “Chicago.” It’s a thrilling, moving performance, and with “Mister Cellophane,” his big song about feeling like a nobody, Sigmund Stops. The. Show.
“Chicago” boasts many big numbers, something emphasized by Peter Rothstein’s production, which imagines it as a series of vaudeville acts introduced by a rotating band of hosts who possess the empty pizazz of the emcee from another musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb, “Cabaret.” There’s also a resemblance to Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies,” which similarly tells its story through numbers that work as star turns while revealing important information about the characters’ relationships.
Roxie Hart (Britta Ollmann) is an amoral chorine who discovers that — in Chicago’s jazz age, as in the “Real Housewives” of today — talent is not a prerequisite for stardom. After she shoots her lover and is tossed in the slammer, she meets another killebrity named Velma Kelly (Michelle de Joya), whose infamy she steals (singing, “Who says that murder’s not an art?”), assisted by Kelly’s smooth-talking lawyer, Billy Flynn (Robert O. Berdahl).
Latté Da often casts Ollmann as pure-hearted women, so it’s fun to see her tackle different territory. The forthrightness that served her so well in “Once” and “Ragtime” creates an interesting element in Ollman’s confident, sexy “Chicago” performance (so does Paul Bigot’s spectacular Jean Harlow wig). We can see how Roxie might have gone a different way, and that’s particularly helpful here because there’s not as much contrast between Roxie and de Joya’s surprisingly fresh-faced Velma as I’d like.
Berdahl plays Billy with panache; Regina Marie Williams makes for a sexy, Eartha Kitt-ish Matron “Mama” Morton; and the witty “Cell Block Tango” kills. Because of the movie and countless tour visits, “Chicago” is quite familiar, but Rothstein has made it urgent with a production that, while set in the Roaring ’20s, has a whisper of “Nowadays,” as one song title insists. The connection between the show’s characters and the famous-for-being-famous Kardashians is unmissable, and Eli Sherlock’s handsome set pushes the actors out into the audience, making us complicit in the creation of these vacuous celebrities.
At the end of the show, the large cast promenades into the audience, holding mirrors. You may think the narcissistic fame-seekers, all wearing costume designer Alice Fredrickson’s underwear as outerwear, are planning to gaze at themselves. Instead, they remind the audience who it is who ultimately decides these things, because they don’t look into the mirrors. They hold them up to us.
Who: Music by John Kander. Lyrics by Fred Ebb. Book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. Directed by Peter Rothstein.
When: 7:30 Wed.-Fri., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Nov. 3.
Where: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Av. NE., Mpls.
Tickets: $33-$113, 612-339-3003 or latteda.org.