14 JUNE 2022
The combination of composer John Kander, lyricist Fred Ebb and choreographer Bob Fosse plus a story based on real life was a potent mixture when they came together to create the musical ‘Chicago’. The show may be nearly 60 years old, but the originality of its presentation and storytelling remains fresh and dynamic.
The revival of the show in the US in 1996 and subsequently in the UK a year later has been incredibly successful; despite its longevity, I haven’t seen this production before.
Simplicity is sometimes best and here you see it so cleverly achieved. Minimal set, minimal props, minimal costumes is all that is needed to tell the story of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart; the jailed killers awaiting trial. But with few trappings to use as a disguise, the music, choreography, performances and direction need to be top notch – and, in the main, they are.
The on-stage orchestra, under Andrew Hilton, is the best band I have heard for a very long time; they are another character in the story and their performance of the ‘Entr’acte’, in particular, is a joy. Credit too to the Sound Department – in what is a very brassy score, every word could be heard, the balancing of the sound was exemplary. Hearing so many great songs played to the hilt is joyful.
The original choreography by Bob Fosse, re-styled by his partner, Ann Reinking, for the revival is pitted with motifs which have become part of the musical theatre language; the precision of movement, the inventive use of the bowler hat and the nod, the flick and the lunge all provide a feast for the eyes and the ensemble here are right on the button.
Djalenga Scott has the voice of melted chocolate with great depth; her statuesque performance as the sassy Velma is superb. Billie Hardy is also impressive as the new kid on the block, Roxie Hart; she has a glint in the eye, a cheeky, ‘innocent’ quality and sings wonderfully well.
Lee Mead makes for a smooth Billy Flynn; well-voiced, though maybe he should be even a little more ‘showman’. Sinitta Malone’s Mama Morton lacks that dangerous quality the character should have; too ‘nice’ and the undertones of her desires are too muted. Jamie Baughan easily grabs the audience sympathies as the pathetic Amos Hart and B E Wong has enormous fun as the gossip columnist, Mary Sunshine, with her own secret to hide.
The ensemble work their socks off; well organised and never missing a beat; this is a really high-class group.
Hats off to the Lighting Department which provides the palate used to create atmosphere and tension so faultlessly.
The show itself has a few numbers which slightly outstay their welcome, but that is being very picky; it is a sexy, sassy and, at times, very funny musical treat. This is a very good production of an unusual, but excellent show which remains vital, clever and highly entertaining.
CAST & CREATIVES
VELMA KELLY – DJALENGA SCOTT
ROXIE HART – BILLIE HARDY
FRED CASELY – JOEL BENJAMIN
SERGEANT FOGARTY – CALLUM FITZGERALD
AMOS HART – JAMIE BAUGHAN
HUNYAK – HOLLIE JANE STEPHENS
MAMA MORTON – SINITTA MALONE
BILLY FLYNN – LEE MEAD
MARY SUNSHINE – B E WONG
GO-TO-HELL KITTY – TANISHA-MAE WARD
AARON – LIAM MARCELLINO
ENSEMBLE – MICHELLE ANDREWS, DELYCIA BELGRAVE, EMILY GOODENOUGH, THEO REECE, ISHMAIL AARON, HARRISON WILDE, GABBY ANTROBUS, DANIEL CLIFT, AARON JENKINS
MUSIC – JOHN KANDER
LYRICS – FRED EBB
BOOK – FRED EBB & BOB FOSSE
ORIGINAL CHOREOGRAPHY – ANN REINKING – IN THE STYLE OF BOB FOSSE
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – ANDREW HILTON
SCENIC DESIGN – JOHN LEE BEATTY
LIGHTING DESIGN – KEN BILLINGTON
ORIGINAL SOUND DESIGN – RICK CLARKE