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Chicago The Musical
Member Name: glitter_princess
Chicago The Musical
Date: 23/02/09, updated on 23/02/09 (469 review reads)
Advantages: Stylish, sexy, great songs, great performances
Disadvantages: Uncomfortable seats!
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery. All those things we hold near and dear to our hearts..."
Chicago in the early 1930s. A city where killing is a form of entertainment and where, if you're lucky, you can get away with murder. Chicago tells the story of Roxie Hart, a woman who killed her lover and is sent to prison facing the death penalty. But Roxie's biggest ambition is to be famous and have her own vaudeville act, and she soon discovers that, with a little bending of the truth and a little media manipulation, her dreams could become reality. Cue hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn, a flash kind of guy who, by turning every trial into a media circus, has never lost a case and claims that "If Jesus Christ was alive today, living in Chicago and had $5000 things might have turned out a little differently". In prison Roxie meets Velma Kelly, a vaudeville star who shot her husband and sister after catching them in bed together. Cue intense rivalry between Roxie and Velma as they each battle for their place in the spotlight.
Chicago was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb (the same people who brought you Cabaret) in the 1970s and has experienced a fantastic revival in recent years featuring stars such as Ruthie Henshall, Ute Lemper, Denise Van Outen and Alison Moyet and won the 1998 Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production. As you will have guessed from the plot outline, it's not a cutesy storyline - it's pretty dark and the humour is black and biting.
The set is black and minimalist and really captures the jazz / vaudeville atmosphere well - the orchestra are sat on stage for the entire show, just like a cabaret revue show, and are really a part of the action and the cast sit visibly in the wings when not performing. The cast are all dressed in black fishnets, stocking and suspenders and 'dance wear' - Chicago is probably an easy sell to the men in your family! There isn't a great deal of scenery or props, only the odd chair here, or ostrich feather there, and the whole feel of the show plays on the audience's awareness that they are watching a theatrical production - there are lots of "breaking the 4th wall" asides to the audience as well as references to certain performance traditions that reinforce this.
The performances of the cast are fantastic. Currently headling the show are Aoife Mullholland (of How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria fame) as Velma Kelly and Tiffany Graves as Roxie Hart (interestingly, they've recently swapped roles which gives an interesting take on both characters). They both look and sound stunning and really capture the feel of the show well. Brenda Edwards (of X factor fame) plays Mama Morton, the warden who 'looks after' the girls, and she has a fabulously powerful and resonant voice and a good dose of attitude. I was a big fan of Brenda on the X Factor and I thought she was absolutely stunning in this. Ian Kelsey (of Emmerdale) plays Billy Flynn, and while he wasn't quite smooth enough for me and seemed slightly nervous, he played the role well. I love the fact that Chicago play upon the theme of the fickle nature of fame by casting lots of celebrities in the lead roles - luckily for this production, those celebrities pull it wonderfully and I was really really impressed. I've not been so impressed with the cast every time I've seen Chicago (Tina Arena and Ashlee Simpson were pretty disappointing!) but the current cast are well worth the ticket price. The chorus also do a great job, playing various characters throughout the show and moving together fantastically.
The music itself is great - one of the most thrilling moments in theatre is the Cell Block Tango, as each one of the "6 merry murderesses" tells the story of how she ended up in jail, how "he had it coming" - full of the blackest humour, aggression and anger. "I simply Cannot do it alone" is Velma's starring moment of desperation as she tries to convince Roxie to join her act, reeling through the moves she and her sister had put together in a bizarre "one man band" type song. "We both reached for the gun" sees Billy and Roxie speaking at a press conference, with Billy manipulating Roxie like a ventriloquist's dummy, very cleverly done. "Roxie" is Roxie's starring moment, as she fantasises about starring in her own vaudeville show, with "her boys" framing her.
The legendary Bob Fosse choreography is superb - we were lucky enough to sit right at the front of the stalls and it really is stunning to watch.
Chicago is currently showing at the Cambridge Theatre, Earlham Street,
WC2H 9HU, right smack in the middle of Covent Garden. The theatre is fairly small and one of the West End's more dingy theatres but I think actually this suits the show quite well. There isn't a huge amount of space to linger in the foyer or in the bar, but that's not something that I was particularly fussed about. What might put some people off though is the seats which are massively uncomfortable! By the end of the show my poor back was very sore!
Chicago does tend to be a show that you can get great ticket offers on - I bought ours from lastminute where we got the best available seats for £35 and ended up sitting in row D of the stalls (£65 seats). I've also seen great offers for 2 for 1 seats for Chicago, so it's definitely worth shopping around to get the best price. I should probably admit that I have seen this show about 5 times, and every time I forget until I see it again quite how fantastic it is. It's not a flashy show that relies on impressive sets or special effects, just a great score and great performances.
If you're a fan of dark humour, Chicago will be right up your street!
Summary: The name on everybody's lips is gonna be... Roxie!
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