Chicago. Sort of Brechtian, sort of Cabaretish, Chicago tells a story of injustice and corruption, and tells it in the most seductive way, with witty, memorable songs, elegantly glistening dance sequences and a smart, cynical and grown-up script. Roxie Hart is an evil, self-serving little hoofer. Having murdered a man who tried to walk away from her, she cons sweet dopey husband Amos into coming up with money and enlists the services of reptilian lawyer Billy Flynn. Under Flynn's tutelage, Roxie realizes she can not only escape the hangman (the show is set in the 1920s), but finally, due to the public's fascination with murderesses, become a big star. Just one problem: Velma Kelly is the current hot murderess, and she has no intention of giving up her spot. Joannie Brosseau-Beyette and Alicia Dunfee starred as Roxie and Velma at Boulder's Dinner Theatre seven years ago, and they star again in this revival. They're completely relaxed into their roles, and they also bring a crisp precision to every note and move; their familiarity with the material and each other allows for a wonderful playfulness and exuberance. And there's also A.K. Klimpke reprising the role of reptilian lawyer Billy Flynn, Wayne Kennedy re-creating his sad sack Amos, and a horde of familiar faces in the chorus. But Reynelda Snell brings a whole new energy and interpretation — not to mention a rich, strong voice — to the key role of prison matron "Mama" Morton. The orchestra is note-perfect, Dunfee's Bob Fosse-influenced choreography thrums with energy, and there's so much sheer exuberance on the stage that you find yourself sorry when the evening ends. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through May 9, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed March 4.
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The House of Yes. A smart, sharp black comedy with some uneasy currents creeping beneath the surface, The House of Yes is an excellent pick for Equinox, a new company that produced three theater pieces last year largely under the radar and is now looking for greater visibility. The year is 1983, and as the play opens, we meet an upper-crust Washington, D.C., family who once lived next door to the Kennedys and remains obsessed by them. The father left the household on the day Jack Kennedy was assassinated — or perhaps, as the mother later suggests, there's a more sinister reason for his disappearance. The daughter, who calls herself Jackie O, is waiting with her younger brother, Anthony, for the arrival of her twin, Marty, and his girlfriend. It doesn't take long for us to realize that Jackie O and Marty have a longstanding incestuous relationship. Also that Marty's girlfriend, Lesly, isn't exactly welcome in the house. Not by Jackie O and her weirdly protective mother, anyway, although out-of-it little brother Anthony will come to find Lesly's warm normalcy very appealing. The performances are all good — and a few are better than good. With The House of Yes, Equinox has announced its presence with style. Presented by Equinox Theatre Company through March 27, Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, 720-984-0781, www.equinoxtheatredenver.com. Reviewed March 11.
Under Milk Wood. Described by author Dylan Thomas as a play for voices, Under Milk Wood creates a day in the life of a teeny backwater of a Welsh coastal town called Llareggub ("buggerall" spelled backward): the inhabitants' fantasies and memories; the ghosts of husbands abused and lovers lost; stories of love misplaced, sustaining faith and rage unsated; the dreamlike poetry of the slow procession from dawn to dusk to night. "Time passes," someone instructs us at the beginning. "Listen. Time passes." Over time, you meet an astonishing cast of characters, from the sweet and somewhat simple Reverend Eli Jenkins to Mr. Pugh, who wants to poison his cold, critical wife, to Mog Edwards and his beloved Myfanwy Price, who communicate only in yearning letters even though they live in the same town. There are also Mrs. Ogmore Pritchard, who does nothing but clean, dust and put things in order, and sleeps at night between the resentful ghosts of her two deceased husbands, and Polly Garter, who has conceived many children by many different men while continuing to mourn her one true love, Little Willie Wee. The best way for a director to deal with this glorious tumble of words is to get out of the way, which is exactly what Ed Baierlein has done. His staging is clean and skillful, with just enough action to keep things moving. Under Milk Wood bears comparison with those other tone poems of country life, Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology and Thornton Wilder's Our Town; all three are pieces deepened and sanctified by the presence of the dead. But there's also a wild sense of comedy here, and an unfettered poetic imagination — even if harnessed to the mundane details of daily life — that could never be matched elsewhere. Presented by Germinal Stage Denver through March 21, 2450 West 44th Avenue, 303-455-7108, www.germinalstage.com. Reviewed February 25.