Book: Fred Ebb &Bob Fosse
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Music: John Kander
Director: Walter Bobbie
Reviewer: Marina Spark
From start to finish the UK tour of Chicago enthralls with the classic tale of murder, fame and jazz in Chicago, Illinois. With lyrics by Fred Ebb and music by John Kander an audience cannot fail to be entertained.
Not a single performance is anything other than spectacular. Velma Kelly, played by Genevieve Nicole, is a force of nature. Nicole’s embodiment of Velma is effortless, sexy and physically powerful. Her stage presence is monumental and her voice colossal. Ali Bastian takes on the rôle of Roxy Hart. Bastian cleverly creates a character that hugely develops throughout the course of the show. Her Roxy begins as a meek, slightly petulant mouse and flourishes into a headstrong, powerful diva. The transformation is incredible and even though the audience is taken on this journey of self discovery with her, at no point are they able to endear themselves to her; a clever move which will make Bastian’s Roxy infamous. Stefan Booth plays the rôle of the slick, smooth talking, legal snake Billy Flynn; his suave criminal lawyer is the personification of finely tuned arrogance. Booth is humorous and engaging in his portrayal of Billy Flynn. The highlight of the show is when Bastian and Booth team together for We Both Reached For The Gun. The song is note perfect and the choreography carried out with precision, making it genuinely hilarious and thoroughly memorable.
Unfortunately, at this performance Bernie Nolan was unable to perform as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton so her understudy Debbie Jenkins took over the rôle. It must be said that Jenkins is incredible in the rôle; commanding and vocally supreme, she proves herself more than worthy of Matron ‘Mama’ Morton. The rest of the cast are excellent; performing the complex choreography and fast paced songs with precision while keeping in their highly distinct characters.
The orchestra sit on a tiered section of the stage, putting the jazzy music right at the heart of the show. The score is one that all musicians in the orchestra clearly adore playing. The score is complimented well by the choreography by Ann Reinking, with Hot Honey Rag using the original choreography by Bob Fosse.
The production is heavily stylised, with a Brechtian feel running throughout; performers sit on chairs at the side of the stage when not in character, introductions to scenes are made by performers and the conductor, and a heavily lit proscenium arch reminds us that we were watching a show. On the whole this style works; however, occasionally it feels a little too stripped back. Notably, the Cell Block Tango suffers; a little more showmanship could be afforded here, the space used to greater effect and some more interesting chorographical storytelling used when the women take relish in describing how they killed their men.
Chicago has been running in the UK for 15 years, and is still as fresh as ever. If Chicago comes to a theatre near you and you fancy some classic musical theatre entertainment, you simply can’t go wrong with this show.