The Life | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Tunesmith Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity, City of Angels) wrote some of his best songs for this 1997 musical--his last Broadway show--about Times Square prostitutes and pimps. And the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble's knockout non-Equity cast delivers the jazz-funk-gospel score with volcanic power and dramatic nuance. But the script, by Coleman, David Newman, and lyricist Ira Gasman, is erratic. Clumsily melding raucous comedy and violent melodrama, it glamorizes the characters' sleazy lifestyle, then heavy-handedly underscores its danger and ugliness. Still, director Stephen M. Genovese's engagingly scruffy production, set in the 1970s, is worth seeing for its dynamic performances and rafter-raising vocals--Jon Steinhagen's musical direction is superb. Especially noteworthy are Bethany Thomas as a world-weary whore who's "getting too old for the oldest profession," Aaron Holland and Tawny Newsome as a coked-up Vietnam vet and the woman he betrays, Jess Godwin as the scheming new girl in town, and Anthony Fett, who brings a Travolta-esque swagger to the hustler-narrator. a Through 7/15: Thu-Fri 8:15 PM, Sat 4 and 8:15 PM, Sun 6 PM, Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, 773-327-5252, $27.

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