Arts musical review

Musical Theatre Guild brings to life Chicago’s razzle and dazzle

The musical about the Windy City’s celebrity criminals was a whirlwind.

Staged by MIT’s Musical Theatre Guild

Billy Flynn (Reidyn Wingate ’25) told Roxie Hart (Xochitl Luna ’22) that if she wants to be saved from the hangman’s noose, then it would be crucial to get sympathy from the press. Well, she sure did!

I had the pleasure of attending the Musical Theatre Guild’s (MTG) rendition of Chicago, a dazzling musical set in an age of jazz, cabarets, and loose morals. This is the very first musical I have ever watched, and I could not have chosen a better one.

Chicago is unapologetically gleaming and exuberant and as bright as a resplendent star. Of course, Chicago’s blinding glare is only appropriate considering how ruthlessly it portrays stardom and fame. After Roxie Hart’s lover, Fred Casely (Ian Rosado ’25), breaks things off with her, an enraged Roxie guns him down, with the drums punctuating each of her shots with a bang. The murder is juxtaposed by a vibrant choral group singing about nightlife thrills and Roxie’s reaction to the murder — “I gotta pee!”

The opening act sets the musical’s tone and principal conflict. Fred Casely’s cold-blooded murder did not evoke any emotion from Roxie aside from contempt, believing that Fred was just receiving his comeuppance. This moment is later played for laughs when Billy and Roxie are being interviewed by Mary Sunshine (Grace Anderson G). Mary asks if Roxie is sorry for Fred’s murder, prompting Roxie to break off from Billy’s apparent ventriloquism to snark at the question. Luna’s delivery of “Are you kidding?” caused the audience to erupt in chuckles.

Roxie’s lack of remorse regarding the murder is on display when Sergeant Fogarty (Elvin Yang G) is interrogating the meek and often forgotten Amos Hart (Jon Rosario ’24). The more murder-inclined of the Harts sings a humorous song about how despite Amos’ shortcomings, ranging from his lack of great physique to his lack of smarts, at least he would stand up for her. But Roxie’s tune becomes more scathing once Amos pieces together that his wife is having an affair with Fred, leading to him turning against her.

The stage lights were put to great use, accentuating a lot of moments including Amos’ interrogation. This was more impactful in the Murderess’ Row scene, where the entire stage operated under a scarlet cover as each murderess details how they killed their lover — except for Hunyak (Julie Steele ’26), the Hungarian who does not speak English, who is, of course, not guilty.

In opposition to Roxie is Velma Kelly (Rachel Waggoner ’27), who is essentially Chicago’s premier murderess after Velma kills both her lover and sister after catching them in the act. Velma and Roxie trade many barbs throughout the show, as Velma is initially presented as the quintessential celebrity criminal and Roxie as just a social-climbing clout chaser. However, Velma starts to slip from the public consciousness when Roxie is catapulted into greater fame for being a “reformed sinner,” causing more friction between the two characters — doubly so when Roxie takes Velma’s rhinestone shoes to wear at the trial. The inversion of their statuses foreshadows what would eventually happen to Roxie.

The musical was also surprisingly meta. There were scenes where characters had the self-awareness that they were in a musical. Characters call for their exit music (except for poor Amos who has none), play poker with the orchestra members, and call the spotlight on them (except for Amos, who is missed). There is even an instance where Velma hands a newspaper (The Tech, at that! It appeared twice!) to the conductor, Sydney Nguyen ’24, which made me realize how delightful this musical truly was. Moments like these highlighted the brilliant teamwork the stagecast, crew, and orchestra had in crafting a meta experience for the audience.

What took the cake for this musical, however, was Billy Flynn’s All I Care About is Love performance during which he rips his shirt off completely. The unexpected move electrified the audience, and I laughed when Billy chucked his ripped shirt to an ensemble performer, barely missing her from my perspective.

Chicago’s nature made me want to kick my shins for not catching the point of the show much earlier. The musical is a brilliant satire of the media sensationalizing criminals and making them “celebrities,” albeit for only 15 minutes. It makes fun of public trials where even the worst defendants can garner sympathy from the public despite their crimes.

It only registered to me when, in the midst of Roxie’s trial, a news reporter bursts in shouting about a woman whose murders eclipse even those of Roxie’s, causing the jury to leave the court. And if this still went over your head, Velma and Roxie thank the audience at the end for our belief in their innocence, exclaiming that we are a living example of what America is like.

Overall, I went to this show not knowing what to expect, but I left in a brighter mood. The cast members were terrific, the orchestra was euphonic, and the crew elevated the musical experience. I can confidently say that the lights of MTG’s Chicago razzled and dazzled me: Chicago was truly an unassailable performance.