That's the word for a little liberal arts college, far away from anywhere, and one whose productions tend to adopt a modest, even minimalist aesthetic, like Fort Lewis College for instance, which decides to produce the super-glossy musical "Chicago."
The high-budget picture of that name won six Oscars and 34 other film awards when it came out in 2002 with a cast including Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellwegger as the high-kicking murderers. Richard Gere played their luxury-lovin' lawyer, Queen Latifah their seductive jailer, Taye Diggs the mysterious narrator and John C. Reilly the sad-sack husband.
Imagine college kids facing an audience that is more than likely to be familiar with their more famous counterparts.
Director Ginny Davis cannily steered her cast of 26, crew of 53 and band of 12 straight toward the music and dancing, with a loving glance toward the fun of the '20s costumes.
Nathan Lee constructed a serviceable if unexciting two-story scaffolding that stays in place throughout the play. Period text is projected behind the action, morphing into contemporary references to AIG, Lorena Bobbitt and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich among other ne'er-do-wells from the news.
Andrew Homburg and his 12-piece band play on stage. They're at work for most of the play, providing a base for the fun and the pace without which the evening would be as flat as a subprime mortgage.
The text comes from the Broadway play rather than the movie and seems to point the moral even more directly with quotes like "In this town, murder's a form of entertainment" and "We are living proof of what a great country this is." The storytelling moves fast, and several songs pop up that don't appear in the film.
It's impossible to overestimate the crucial contributions of Linda Mack as musical director along with Homburg and Suzy DiSanto as choreographer, helped by Anne Berg Pattillo.
DiSanto has long been a Bob Fosse enthusiast, which couldn't be more appropriate because the late choreographer first brought "Chicago" to Broadway with his wife, the dancer Gwen Verdon and producer Richard Fryer.
Alyse Neubert stood out as one of the two reigning murderers, Velma Kelly, who offed her sister and her husband when she caught them doin' her wrong. Neubert is lucky enough to resemble the gorgeous Zeta-Jones, plus she gets to bring "angry girl" energy to her accomplished singing and dancing. The combination makes her stand out.
Kelly Zick takes the central role of the murdering Roxie Hart with the most beautiful bias cut frocks to help her hold up the many songs and dances she handles with aplomb. Her character and Neubert's are described as "Killer diller scintillating sinners" and they live up to their billing.
Bradley Sharp shines as Roxie's stumblebum husband Amos. He gets one of the production's best songs with the poignant "Cellophane" and he makes the most of his chance. He ends the song in which he bemoans being transparent with a "Hope I didn't take up too much of your time." Big laugh.
Beverly Taflinger owns the stage as the sexy, larcenous, Mama Morton, the role Queen Latifah made famous, and Eli Halterman is audacious as the weasely Billy Flynn, stripping to his boxers, and later on singing a key ironic tune, "All I Care About is Love."
Patrick Wiabel is suave as the Master of Ceremonies and the cross-dressing casting of Ammon Swofford as Miss Mary Sunshine is a smart, funny touch. Swofford is one cast member, along with Neubert, who plays above his age with panache.
The ensemble hovers around as reporters or murderers and never lets the side down.
The decision to put on this play was a "Little Engine That Could" decision for the Fort Lewis company, and their more than little engine could.