Writer: Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Director: Walter Bobbie
Musical Director: Ben Atkinson
Choreographer: Ann Reinking
Reviewer: Sue Collier
First produced in 1975, Chicago(based on a 1926 play of the same name) is a musical about two really quite unpleasant women. They are each rightly on trial for murder, but with the help of an influential male lawyer, they manipulate the press and a jury in order to try to win their freedom.
The stage setting is entirely dark apart from the golden frame in which the gloriously entertaining orchestra is positioned under the musical direction of Ben Atkinson. Atkinson thoroughly enjoys his role, announcing the scenes with passion. His entertaining musical direction includes the fabulous Entr’Acte, in which he literally bends over backwards while conducting. The orchestra is an integral part of the story and presents a sense of the era and style in which Chicago is portrayed.
The role of Roxie Hart is played by Hayley Tanaddon, who is an all round strong performer and while her likeability is obvious, she gives a convincing portrayal of the nastier aspects of Roxy’s personality as she sings scathingly about her husband, Amos. Waylon Jacobs, playing the kind, loyal and unassuming Amos receives a high level of audience sympathy in response to his quietly emotional rendition of Mr. Cellophane.
Velma Kelly is played by Sophie Carmen-Jones, who displays an easy abundance of energy throughout her singing and dancing. Her high kicks are a joy to behold and in the introductory number All That Jazz she leads an entertaining and skilled chorus of precise and sizzling dancers who, along with the orchestra, bind the story together well. This is particularly evidential during Cell Block Tango where the group of women murderers portrays a real sense of repulsiveness, but at the same time earning enormous audience appreciation. The dancing is sensual throughout and the humour is smutty and dark, as are the costumes (everyone wears black). Colour is provided via lighting effects and the vibrant and skilled singing and dancing performances.
Sam Bailey plays Mama Morton, the prison Matron on the make. Her voice is incredibly strong and note perfect. It is ironic to consider that before her X Factor win, she was actually a Prison Officer.
John Partridge plays Billy Flynn, the publicity-savvy lawyer who fleeces the women prisoners for thousands of dollars in order to gain his services. Partridge is a good song and dance man, although tonight adopting a slightly shaky voice during the first few lines of All I Care About is Love. Later he wows the audience while holding a single note for a seemingly endless period of time. Though Billy Flynn is not an entirely likeable character, Partridge’s smile seems at times to be rather fixed and Flynn’s charm potentially lacking.
One minor criticism is that occasionally the volume of the orchestra can mask the clarity of the song lyrics. However, an extremely high level of audience satisfaction is always a good indicator of the strength of a production and this one certainly has all the right ingredients to provoke an enormously high level of audience appreciation. It is highly recommended.
Runs until 9 April 2016 | Image: Catherine Ashmore