Tuesday, 24 April 2018

'Chicago', 23/04/2018; A review.

Last night I went to see what has been one of my favourite musicals for many years; the dazzling, scandalous 'Chicago', at the Phoenix Theatre in London's West End!
I've always loved Chicago...despite never having seen it performed live. You could say its reputation precedes it – but I've also seen a few of its musical numbers performed by local theatre companies ('The Cell Block Tango' in particular has been done to death, but I'll always love it!) and of course I've seen the film a few times, too. 




For those of you who haven't seen or heard of it before, here's the lowdown...

Set in the legendary city during the very jazzy 20s, 'Chicago' tells the story of two rival vaudevillian murderesses locked up in Cook County Jail. Nightclub star Velma’s serving time for killing her husband and sister after finding the two in bed together. Roxie’s been tossed in the joint for bumping off the man she’s been cheating on her husband with. Determined to get out and make it even bigger, Velma enlists the help of prison matron Mama Morton and super-slick lawyer Billy Flynn, who spin Velma’s incarceration into a media frenzy, thus preparing the world for a splashy showbiz comeback. But then Roxie decides to get a piece of that action, too...
(source: Broadway.com)




Right so, firstly we must address something 
very important. And that is that I found myself fancying every single member of this cast, throughout the production. Yes, even the dreadful Fred Casely!? Every main character was charming in their own way (especially Amos Hart! My goodness, the audience LOVED that poor, invisible cutie!) and every member of the ensemble had their own style and sass levels, plus they all played various parts as the story went on. They'd go from sexy dancers (their default roles, which they played remarkably well, I must say) to reporters, then police officers, then friends and fellow inmates and foolish jurors
  oh, my! 




It seems very relevant to add my little review of the costumes in here; I use the word 'little' partly because most of the performers were wearing very little, and also because I have very little to say other than: WoOowwwWwwW. Obviously I was prepared for some seriously sexy ladies outfits
  slinky teddies with suspenders, YAAASSS  but then when the male dancers slipped onstage in open shirts or light waistcoats teamed with the tightest trousers I think I've ever seen on any men...safe to say my theatre date beside me got an earful of delighted expletives. 




The excitement when Cuba Gooding Jr. stepped out onto the stage was so intense. Billy Flynn has a very long musical introduction anyway, but by the time CGJ emerged we were all squealing in our seats! And what a star. He was absolutely charming; very well-spoken and light on his feet throughout. His voice was a treat, too  I mean generally, for a screen actor who has had barely any stage experience, he did so good. 


I loved both the leading ladies, of course (Sarah Soetaert as Roxie, Josefina Gabrielle as Velma) and Matron 'Mama' Morton (Ruthie Henshall). The strength in their voices  and movement was unreal. 



I've actually been to the Phoenix Theatre before, in 2014 when it was a (sadly, only temporary) home to the absolutely gorgeous 'Once' (and that night will forever be known as the night I first fell for David Hunter...). I thought I knew the place, after that...I did not. Because when I entered the space that night 4 years ago, I was greeted with a warm and bright atmosphere; the band already casually playing funky Irish tunes, joking with each other, and the bar onstage actually serving audience members with beer and spirits. 


But at 8pm last night, I walked into a dark, snazzy 1920s bar with just a chair onstage at first, a flashy cane and bowler hat carefully placed on it, like a teaser. After we were greeted by a gorgeous dancer, the curtain flew up to reveal a full jazz orchestra set up onstage in a wonderful tilted almost-pyramid (there's probably a legit name for it, sorry stage manager readers!), and throughout the show the performers moved in and out of the band, up and down stairs right in the centre of their space, and some even interacted with the conductor  who introduced several musical numbers himself, most professionally and borderline gleefully! There were floor-to-ceiling ladders on either side of the stage, that would swing in and out as and when required, usually with a singing murderess balanced on them, of course. 

I was so impressed and excited by the set and design of this show, and how despite having been in this same theatre a few years ago, it felt completely different this time. Major props to stage manager David Hyslop! 



Finally, I must shout-out to the incredible band laying down only the finest sounds for this show. And really, it wasn't all about the quality of their music (which was 10/10, 110%, 5 stars etc.), but also about the fun they had as they played. It was so obvious how much they enjoyed themselves; they even stayed on playing a whole song after the cast had done their curtain call, while the audience were packing up their things and making for the exits  but then a lot of us stuck around when we realised the funky music was still happening! 



This wonderful production can be seen Monday to Saturday at 8pm, with additional performances on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3pm.

Get your tickets now, at From the Box Office!

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