Outside the Tower Theatre after Cat Call Productions' opening night performance of Chicago on Friday, I heard a man say to the woman hanging on his arm, "I can't believe we just saw that in Bend."
This didn't surprise me. I heard a variation of that comment when Cat Call performed Cabaret in 2009 and again when they took on Little Shop of Horrors last fall. It does, however, make sense that people would say something like this, given that we really don't see many large-scale productions of this caliber and edginess around these parts. But by now, theatergoers should be getting used to such quality as long as Cat Call is involved in a musical.
The popular tale of prohibition-era cabaret singers who find themselves in jail and accused of murder is left in the capable hands of director Michael Heaton and choreographer Michelle Mejaski who team up to provide a creative and daring take on one of the most popular American musicals of all time. Add in the live onstage band directed by Constance Gordy and one of the most impressive casts I've seen in this town and you've got a hell of a production.
In the days following the smashingly popular first weekend, Executive Producer Kael LeGuyonne, who owns Cat Call along with his wife Tifany (we see her take the stage this time around as Liz, one of the dancers) said it's a common misconception that Cat Call brings in outside talent for these now-annual Tower shows. But no, this is all local talent, something that should inspire a sense of pride in our artistic community.
Most radiant are the two leads, Velma and Roxie, the two cabaret performers we see battle it out for fame while on trial for separate murders. As Velma, Shea Reiner is stunningly convincing, sexy and elegant in both her song and dance, making use of her wealth of theatrical experience. Opposite her, Tara Johnson adds a zest to Roxie with plenty of energy and humor, especially when she's in scenes with her real-life husband (and husband in the performance) Rick Johnson, who was straight dynamite in Little Shop last year. And in the role of attorney to the stars Billy Flynn, we get to see a hilarious Blaine Cameron, who all but steals his scenes with his hilariously slimy take on the corrupt lawyer.
As they have with all three Tower Theatre productions, Cat Call creates a dynamic stage design, utilizing the existing features of the theater, including the ladders that the actors climb throughout the production, giving an interesting sense of depth to the action. The set lends itself perfectly to Mejeski's electric choreography, which features an incredibly talented group of dancers, providing the sort of flair that local productions can often lack around here.
The quality of Chicago hasn't gone unnoticed and tickets are selling at a steady clip for this weekend's shows. With that in mind, Cat Call has added a Saturday matinee performance at 2 p.m. to the weekend's slate.
Take a look and you'll probably also be surprised that you saw something like this in Bend.
8pm Wednesday-Sunday, September 21-24. 2pm and 8pm on Saturday. Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St. Tickets at towertheatre.org. $25.