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A new Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart display their skills in the long-running Chicago. Ruthie Henshall scored as Roxie in the London production; here she wanted to essay Velma. She is an accomplished actress and dancer, and has the mischievously dark-velvety voice of a naughty cello. Still, I suspect she was better as Roxie. Now she may be unconsciously imitating her London vis-à-vis, Ute Lemper, too mannered and mannish for a good role model. Her main problem, though, is Bebe Neuwirth: Once a part has been done to indisputable perfection, it leaves its inheritors with a Hobson's choice: to imitate or strenuously differ, neither one a safe solution. Even so, newcomers to the show will not be disappointed.

As Roxie, Charlotte d'Amboise is an appealing personality and an impeccable dancer but acts the part with too much girlishness, an excess of parodied innocence. Clearly the director, Walter Bobbie, has been remiss here. And here, too, an arduous precedent was set by Ann Reinking's irresistibly dirty, low-down quality, for which Miss d'Amboise's violated-ingenue demeanor is not a valid substitute. Yet the fresh audience around me seemed perfectly content.

Brent Barrett, as the cynical and amoral shyster Billy Flynn, is now entirely up to his illustrious precursors. And P. J. Benjamin may be even better than the formidable Joel Grey as the nerdy Amos Hart -- less adorable, more real. Chicago is still worth a dozen Annie Get Your Guns in its current hapless disincarnation.


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