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In 1996, its a fantastic journey for audience on Broadway to enjoy Chicago revival. In winter of 2004 and 2006 again, it is me that is so fortunate. If you are expecting joy of a romantic comedy or heartquake from a touching tragedy, dont try Chicago. But you are welcome to experience amusement and thinking from it on condition that you are willing to know some aspects of the world we are in.
Based on a distinguished front page in 1920s, Composer John Kender and lyricist Fred Ebb, a golden partnership in 60s and 70s, adapted the story into an American dream filled with murder, greed, corruption, violence, adultery and treachery, all the things we hold near and dear to our hearts. The original version directed by Master of the dark, genius director and choreographer Bob fosse, in 1975 is so ahead of its time that it failed in Tony and received a comparatively limited box office. After 2 hours in the theater, I see how Walter Bobbies creative staging and Ann Reikings choreography in Fosses style give the show a rebirth, and why the revival opened in 1996 enjoys both applause and critical acclaim.
There is fun and organic pleasure. Let puritan complain the joy of slouching song and dance with passion, humor and seduction inside. The intellectual performance also presents insight of the society in 20s and also a reflection of what it is nowadays. Besides, Chicago seems to be a pure show. Among the numerous mega-musical theaters on Broadway that emphasis luxurious scenery and stunt a bit thick, Chicago is no doubt very retrenching. As a result, we can focus on players and enjoy the real pleasure of performance without the crashing chandelier or howling helicopter.
Ridiculously and ironically, the script adapted by David Thompson constructs a substantial plot about two murderesses, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, who killed their lovers and fought their way out on the shoulder of a genius attorney Billy Flynn. And how the media and court is driven to achieve innocence, fame for the girls and treasure for the attorney. It somehow indicates the disorder of the world with betrayal, crime, corrupted court, manipulated media and so on. And to a certain degree, those dramatic turning points are so convincing that we couldnt just neglect them as what is on stage only. In this aspect, which is probably fundamental, it surpasses a variety of soap operas. Whats more, it doesnt challenge the audience so much as those with anti-traditional style. There are no completely breaking down or cynical hurly-burly in the style of avant-grade drama. Humor, temper and hope remain even if the dialogue is exposing ultimately.
Although the score and lyrics are already there, rearrangement is necessary for revival version. I reckoned that jazz in old style couldnt achieve its popularity nowadays easily for its tardy pace. But my anxiety was blown away by the first few notes of All That Jazz. It is wise to make it appeal to audience today without changing the inherence. It is still "slow as Chicago jazz used to be but with ample tension in the voice, throughout numbers as Cellblock Tango, We Both Reach For The Gun, Roxie, Rezzle Dazzle, Nowadays. Solo, duet, chorus are all well operated. The closely reactive cooperation among the players makes the numbers more than songs. In the last number of act 1 My Own Best Friend, the two leading ladies show their determination in fighting against the setback. The remixed new version even sounds magnificent (according to jazz standard) with chorus. Brilliant orchestration with 13 pieces of instruments only by Ralph Burns really burns the theater all over the show. Rick Clarkes sound design makes all the idea shown.
And its a surprisingly good job to hold more than 20 sections of song and dance without slowing down the plot too much. Actually, most audience would still find it difficult to absorb most parts of the show except for When You Are Good To Mama, A Little Bit Of Good, Mr. Cellophane and Class. Thats due to Ann Reiking, a faithful adherent of Fosse. Following the style of Fosse, perhaps a perfect pair for the show, her sexy rechoreography avoids Fosses sensuality to a fault that agonize both critics and audience. Her suitable connotation on choreographic vocabulary fulfills the performance effectively, goes well with the music arranged by Peter Howard and is of great pleasure without decentralizing the theme too much. Of course recreator Gary Chryst adds more to it as well. People, especially females, who used to the Broadway version dating back to 1996 always feel wet after 2-minute parade of male swings at the end of Roxie. Altogether it almost reminds me of Jerome Robinss masterpiece in West Side Story, which enriches the stage in a wild range. Comparatively, those without dance seem a little flavorless.
For a revival version, the direction is what it counts on most. Walter Bobbies dedication is satisfying. He rebuilt a Fosses big black world, and kept a balance between performing art and stunt. But what he presented was more than just imitation of the precedent. The performance is in the form of nightclub show. The players are in the role and doing narration at the same time. So Mr. Bobbie could weaken the causality of most events instead of exaggerating certain factors that may contribute to deliver the so-called main idea. It enables the audience to understand it in various ways. Almost everyone in the show can be translated in several approaches, from leading like Roxie, Velma to utility like even Go-to-Hell Kitty and Hunyak. The dialogue-scene is well managed too. Take the court as an example, all approaches feasible on stage are used to make it highlight of act 2, in which stage art is well defined. For this troupe itself, Scott Faris has what he takes as the overall operator. And so does musical supervision Rob Fisher.
The swings are amazing according to common level of a tour troupe. It is the dancing ensemble that relives the ideas of choreography. Their chorus is stunning when it is mixed with performance of the leading ones. Whats more, their lines, since most of them playing more than one role, are not in the shade at all even according to formal drama standard. The only bug is in Cellblock Tango, a scene in which 6 murderesses tell their stories. The harmonic is not well balanced and covered by Velma sometimes. It is almost the swings that steal the show. Featuring parts: Mama Morton, Mary Sunshine, and Amos Hart (husband of the heroine Roxie) can catch ones eyes with their characteristic voices which are designed for the roles, even though they share no dance. Its their emotion and glorifying representation that enriches the slightly distractive songs. Comparatively, the rest of the cast doesnt worth so much acclaim. Mills Sonberg, as the sex symbol Fred shot by the heroine and swing as well, is trying hard to transform his tenderness into aggressive attraction, which is effective to some degree. But he could be more convincing if he doesnt pretend to be with too much male hormone since softness can also be sexy and deathful. Talented actress and playwright from South Africa, Amra-Faye Wright enjoys a successful musical debut as deperated Velma. Her mezzo-soprano is incredibly bright, clear and fascinating. And she can adjust the voice as needed at ease. Only her movement in both acting and dancing seems more for posing rather than expression with a little overdone, which does something adverse to idea in choreography. Its a pity that I just enjoy Roxie with the understudy Lelya Pellecrim instead of the commended Jane Fowler. Honestly speaking, with nice looking and sweet voice Ms Pellecrim has done her best and expressed what ought to be done. However, her attention on covering up her sweetheart naturalness takes up so much that she couldnt prevent the same problem of Ms Wright--overdoing in movement. I happened to see some video clips of Ms Fowler for publicity reel. Comparatively, she provides more tension and better control over both voice and body language than Ms Pellecrim, at least in the clips. Of course the nearly Titan-figured Ms Fowler might put pressure on the attorney Billy, husband Amos and lover Fred sometimes. Among the cast, John Altman seems to deserve the least praise. After an intense expectation raised by indirect description of him both in and out of the show, his song got me down from the very beginning. His rough tongue couldnt explain why he is reported as the biggest star in the troupe. Yet this could be overcome if he had inserted more up and down or worked out the lines in a more tensive way rather than just remained flat all through. Though the dialogue part is slightly better, he is a bit disappointing as the attractive attorney Billy.
Set and costume design in the show are probably most distinct for their unique and abstract style. There is nothing similar to prevalent mega production like Phantom, Les Mis, the 42nd Street or the Producer. What designer John Lee Beatty has put on stage is a staircase only to hold the orchestra, a jazz band technically, with three entrances for the players. And it is immobile all over performance, for which the orchestra or jazz band as we usually call it is also involved in acting. Players have to imply space-time through performance instead of falling back on specific scenes. They are more liberated to express the multivocal story, which makes it a pure performance away from visual effect. Unlike the set directly copied from Broadway or West End, William Iavey Long has made some improvement in sexy and seductive costume. The black leotard from the 1996 and 1997 version i bikini s retained, which is not realistic at all and has nothing to do with the status for the characters. He adds fringe to bikini and stocks the only things that cover the bikini for the girls and simple stripe to the T-shirt and waistcoats for the boys. When the curtain rises, boys with waistcoats open in front of their chest and girls with bikini covered by stocks are on stage, the whole theater is on fire. It pleases the eyes though with little more than that except that its easier for multi-role players to remain unchanged for its abstract.
Ken Billingtons lighting design, which is not so unique or abstract, is another issue. It is only black, white, yellow and red, but helps imply the scene quite a lot since the set is unrealistic. You can see shadow barrier for the cellblock, fictitious partition, projected the Stars and the Stripes for the court and so on. The light is even used to present scattering blood after murder, absolutely a peculiar form that deserves a Tony. Besides, there is one thing new for the lighting in this productionthe color blue. It is frequently used, quite different from others. When it is smoothly mixed with other colors, its no doubt catching.
As a musical, Chicago has what is necessary: the plot, music score, choreography and performance. Separately, each factor might not be so outstanding, but they inflame as a whole. It deserves the acclaim, and its glory will probably last a long time for its intelligence. In a world, its a journey worth trying.
Last night, for my middle daughters birthday treat, three of us (my daughters aged 14 and 12 and I) went to the Bristol Hippodrome to see Chicago on stage. We are all fans of the film and play the CD quite a lot, so we were already familiar with the story and the music, but seeing a musical on stage is always a special experience.
THE STORY (for those that dont know it)
Velma Kelly is a successful theatrical performer. Roxie Hart isnt, but would love to be. While hubby Amos is away, Roxie has an affair with Fred Casely. He threatens to leave her, so she shoots him. She ends up in jail for murder and could face the death penalty.
Meanwhile, Velma finds her sister in bed with her lover and also ends up in jail on suspicion of murder. But with the help of super-lawyer Billy Flynn, both girls might be able to be found not guilty and freed.
But, of course, Chicago is much more than a story. With murder, sex, lying and deceit in there, things can only become explosive!
THE FILM VS THE STAGE PRODUCTION
First of all, those accustomed to the film version will have to accept a few changes. We were all initially surprised to see that, in the stage production, Velma was blonde instead of brunette and Roxie was brunette instead of blonde. Just when we got that straight, we had to cope with Mama Morton being white and Billy Flynn being black!
There are more musical numbers in the stage production than in the film. Owners of the DVD will be familiar with Class, which is an extra, as it was cut out of the movie. But there are several others we didnt know. Still, more of this kind of thing is rarely bad and we were happy to hear the new ones almost as much as the old, well-loved songs.
Previous stars of the stage version of Chicago have included Marti Pellow, John Nasty Nick Altman, Jennifer Ellison, Jill Halfpenny and Claire Sweeney, so we were wondering who our stars would be. Therefore, I was slightly disappointed to discover I didnt know any of the cast at all. But a few minutes in, we realised it really doesnt matter. After all, fully-trained musical theatre performers are probably going to be better (technically) than TV stars that may have only been trained in acting, dance OR singing.
One of the most striking things you notice about Chicago is the stage setting. For starters, there is a large live band on stage! They are arranged on a kind of tiered area with stairs and a trap door, which is used by the cast to entrance and exit from at times. This makes the band an integral part of the whole show and their involvement and obvious enjoyment really contributed to a great atmosphere. The conductor even got a couple of bits of acting to do!
With the band taking up so much of the stage, the dancers have a relatively small area to work in, but do an excellent job. Fans of Bob Fosse will recognise the jazz style and isolations made popular in his musicals, along with the emphasis on black costumes and these are particularly effective here.
It was good to see the dancers werent all your willowy anorexic types. There were curvy women, petite women, short stocky men and tall athletic types. You also got to see quite a lot of their bodies, as the men often wore very tight trousers and see-through tops, while the women looked like something from a lingerie catalogue!
As a whole, the cast were excellent. The standard of acting, singing and dancing was very high, from the lead roles through to the ensemble. The one weak spot, I felt, was Jacqui Rae as Mama Morton, whose voice was slightly thin and her stage presence somewhat lacking in authority. The chemistry between her and Velma was good though.
Velma was my favourite character. Rachel Stanley was perfect in the role with a huge voice and a warmth in her work that radiated throughout the theatre. She really seemed to be living the role and was convincing from her first note, whereas it took me slightly longer to accept Claire Taylors Roxie Hart. Both women worked very well together though and their final number of the show was a fitting finale.
Cavin Cornwall is an excellent Billy Flynn, with a wonderful ability to be charming, smarmy, generous or selfish, all at the flash of a smile or touch of the hand. The lawyer is really a showman, an entertainer as much as Velma Kelly is, and he knows the exact way to manipulate the press and public opinion to get the verdicts he wants.
His ventriloquists dummy routine with Roxie was the highlight of the show for me such an impressively fast-paced and intricate sequence. I also loved the use of the girl dancers with the big feathers in the Razzle Dazzle number a real reminder of old Hollywood glamour, while also reminding the audience what a fake Billy really is!
Christopher Howell played the down-trodden and oft-ignored Amos Hart with emotion and his rendition of the sad song Mister Cellophane hit just the right tone. He received one of the biggest cheers of the night.
So, to sum up, Chicago was excellent and all three of us thoroughly enjoyed it. The cast was impressive, the dancers flawless, the costumes breath-taking and the live band superb. It just goes to show you dont need a big TV star to sell this show; the music and spectacle of Chicago are enough of a draw without that.
My only complaint really was the cost of tickets at £27.50 each. If theatre wants to gain new fans, something really should be done to bring the prices down, so it can become a regular outing, not just a couple of times a year treat.
But was it worth it? No doubt.
Last week I went to see Chicago the musical at the Adelphi Theatre in London?s West End as a big fan of musicals I thought I would share my views on this production with you as the cast has changed as of 21st June 2004. *SYNOPSIS* Without completely giving the plot away I?ll summarise the storyline of Chicago. Welcome ladies and gentlemen you are about to see a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery. All things we hold dear to our hearts. And so the show begins? The story is set in the Jazz Era of the 1920s in Chicago, where Roxie Hart (Rebecca Thornhill), a struggling chorus girl, dreams of one day becoming an onstage star. The show opens with Velma Kelly (Anita Louise Combe) singing All That Jazz; a great song with some equally stunning choreography. However, Roxie soon shoots her lover because he not only decides to end their affair, but also lies to her about helping advance her career, so the song sums it up nicely here; he had it comin?. Roxie is arrested and then locked up in the women?s prison run by a warden called Matron ?Mama? Morton (Zee Asha); the Cook County Jail's murderess row, this is where Roxie finally meets her stage idol, Velma Kelly, a performer who killed her own sister and her husband after catching them cheating on her together. However Roxie and Velma soon begin to hate each other. In order to beat the rap in her case, Roxie convinces her husband Amos (Paul Leonard) a small, balding man who is completely devoted to Roxie and overlooks her travesties in order to hang on to her (the devoted but senseless type), to raise the money to hire the evangelical Billy Flynn (Cavin Cornwall), the be
st lawyer around, to represent her. Flynn accepts the challenge of taking on the case and proceeds to make Roxie into a media celebrity in the local press as he builds her defence. However, the two murderesses quickly learn that getting away with murder is much easier than maintaining the media's interest? The story continues about how the case will be presented to the courts and how they can stop Roxie being hanged for murder. *MY OPINION* I thoroughly enjoyed the show and it was actually quite different from what I expected. The storyline is slightly confusing at first but once you know what is going on it is quite straightforward and at times rather predictable. However the characters certainly come to life and the show exudes energy from start to finish; the fact that the plot is so far removed from reality that it is unbelievable actually makes it more exciting and . The set is very minimalist but although simple it is actually very effective. In the middle of the stage there is a bandstand complete with jazz band who are essentially there to provide the music and play no other role in the storyline. The rest of the stage is bare apart from two ladders and a few chairs. Although this doesn?t sound very impressive the characters really bring the stage to life more than any amount of decoration and props ever could. And make no mistake they don?t bother much with props either, they consist of the afore mentioned chairs and a couple of guns that?s about it really. However, the costumes are definitely key to this musical. Apart from the silver shoes everything is black, from fishnet stockings to the very revealing costumes. Skimpy is the word here for example black underwear with a see-though black netting, floaty top is the attire for a seductive dance. The dancing is spectacular and the choreographer is to be congratu
lated although not all the steps are that technically demanding as all the girls keep so well in time and move together it is a highly visual, very sexy performance. I?m sure the men in the audience didn?t fail to notice how gorgeous the female dancers were and the men in tight tights didn?t look too bad either! Rebecca Thornhill is new to the musical but she suits the role of Roxie perfectly. An ice-cool murderess with sex-appeal she dominates the stage at every stage. Calvin Cornwall is also new as Billy Flynn the lawyer. He is also well-suited to his role adopting the ?circus ringmaster? nature of the Flynn character which works extremely well. His voice is strong and he gives a captivating performance, I was pleased to see that he embraced the cynical satire and moments of comedy that were to a certain extent lost in the film. There were numerous other good performances and none of the actors seemed wooden the American accents were surprisingly believable too but in my opinion the real strength of the musical is the singing, dancing and costumes rather than the acting. This is to be expected from a musical of which the large majority of the story is told through song. Chicago comes highly recommended for the excellent singing, the sensational dancing and the fantastic comic timing. All the leads especially those who have recently joined the cast are brilliant and the ensemble are full of energy and passion. Although I wasn?t sure what to expect from Chicago I have been pleasantly surprised; it really is an excellent show. *OTHER INFORMATION* Due to the content of the film it doesn?t come recommended to children and the content overall would be described as adult. It contains a number of swearwords though nothing which most people would take offence but do be warned that
the musical does explore taboo social issues such as corrupt legal systems, crimes of passion, and a lot of sexual innuendo. There are also a lot of suggestive positions and revealing costumes so in a nutshell probably not recommended to those who are easily offended or particularly sensitive though this will apply to very few people. The seats are quite comfortable and legroom isn?t too bad but I?d recommend you get seats near the middle of the theatre as a lot of the scenes are played to either side of the stage so it?s best to be as central as possible. Tickets prices range from £15 to £42.50 and the Adelphi Theatre do have spaces allocated to wheelchair users though I would suggest you enquire about availability when booking. Performance times: Monday: 8.00pm Tuesday: 8.00pm Wednesday: 8.00pm Thursday: 8.00pm Friday: 5.30pm & 8.30pm Saturday: 3.00pm & 8.00pm Sunday: No performance Thanks for reading!
Chicago, Illinois: The Late 1920’s. Location: A whoopee spot where the piano’s hot. And all that jazz. It seems strange seeing Chicago and reflecting on the show in light of having seen Miss Saigon. The latter, from myself anyhow, received five stars for it’s sheer size and spectacle of set, score and story. To give Chicago the same five red stars for a show where minimalism is the in-thing is quite an alarming thing to do. Chicago is simplicity itself. You see where other musicals try to out do each other in terms of the grand spectacle – Miss Saigon has the helicopter, Phantom the Chandelier and Les Miserables the Barricades – Chicago simply doesn’t go there and neither does it need to. ***THE STORY*** I guess you know you’re going to be in for a treat when the first character is wearing little more than her underwear and a body stocking, but when you’re invited into a story that involves a little murder, corruption and greed you can bet it will out perform even the House of Commons in terms of sleaziness, deceit and backstabbing. Velma Kelly introduces us to the world of the Chicago jazz scene and through her we are shown the story of a cold blooded murder committed by a nightclub chorus girl, called Roxie Hart. Roxy, married to Amos, is sleeping around (similar, in her own words, to playing around but without dinner) and her latest lover, a regular to the nightclub, called Fred Casely is about to walk out on her. She does what any proud girl would do and shoots him dead. She manages to convince Amos that Fred was a burglar and because Amos loves his wife so much he agrees to take the blame for her actions. In the course of the police investigations into the murder they tell Amos that his wife actually knew the killer pretty intimately. She admits all. Amos lets her take the full blame for her actions. Roxie is sent to the women’s block at Cook C
ounty Jail, a place full of murderesses headed up by Velma. The women share their stories of what brought them to prison, ranging from killing a husband because he ‘popped his gum one more time’ to committing murder because of ‘artistic differences’. In charge of the women is Matron ‘Mama’ Morton who offers help, at a price, to her clients. It is through her help that Velma has become such a well known newspaper celebrity and is managing her rise to ‘stardom’. Velma is less than happy to see Roxie, even more so when she learns that Roxie has stolen her media attention and her lawyer, Billy Flynn who only ‘cares about love’. The lawyer takes Roxie’s case and with, not much attention to detail and an awful lot of lying, changes the story to make Roxie the victim for a tabloid journalist who always tries to find good in everyone – even including murderers. The press interview is conducted with Billy putting words into Roxie’s mouth to present a new version of events covering the fateful night of the murder. Through this Roxie becomes the new girl in town and Velma loses her top spot, her publicity and her post-prison career. Velma, sensing that her popularity is on the wane, valiantly tries to woo Roxie into going into show business as a double act. Roxie refuses but finds out that her popularity has even less length to it than Velma’s. Both girl’s decide that they can only count on themselves. Roxie declares she is pregnant (liar!) and once again becomes the media darling. Despite lie’s (they were promised after all) Roxie’s rise to fame continues despite Velma’s astonishment. Amos, thinking that he is a Father and not terribly good at maths, claims that the baby is his. In the meantime, Velma shows Billy her routine for the court hearing which he duly passes onto Roxie, down to the very last detail. Velma and Mama g
rieve over the loss of class and decency in the world – which coming from two of the underworld’s biggest figures is really quite amusing. And I'll stop there - you'll just have to see it to find out what happens next! So there! ***THE SET*** There is a huge black and gold bandstand mid-stage with full jazz band, a number of chairs and two ladders. That’s about it. See what I mean by minimalism?! But the thing that get you going about this show is the astounding Bob Fosse choreography. Sexy and sassy is how one national newspaper described it and I’m inclined to agree. Female dancers dressed in little more than black Basques and body stockings accompanied by male dancers in tight fitting trousers and waistcoats dance in the smallest of spaces at the front of the stage using some of the most imaginative and inventive choreography, re-created by several people since the remarkable Fosse. Simple, yet breathtakingly sexy and sensual and, in places, incredibly funny. Has to be seen to be understood… ***THE TOURING CAST*** John Altman (Billy Flynn) – “It’s ‘im. Nick Cotton from EastEnders!” I heard someone pass comment. I must admit I was a bit dubious about this casting but he was great as the smarmy lawyer out to make money out of other peoples misfortune. His singing voice wasn’t fantastic most noticeably so in ‘Razzle Dazzle’ but he was entertaining enough. Jane Fowler (Roxie Hart) – excellent as the scheming anti-heroine of the show. At times, sweet and innocent and at others, manipulating and cold. Great singing voice and great actor. Somehow I can’t imagine Claire Sweeney in this role at all… Amra-Faye Wright (Velma Kelly) – another excellent performance from a top-notch actress. Simply stunning. ***THE SONGS*** Great songs played by a fantastic band that are as much a par
t of the show as the actors. Don’t be tempted to jump out of your seat at the end of the curtain call, the band plays on and I could have listened to them all night. But here is my round-up of the best songs: All that Jazz – sung by Velma. Great song, one I knew and goes hand in hand with some great dances moves. Get that deep shoulder action going..! Cell Block Tango – introduces us to some of the inmates at Crook County Jail. Innovative use of sprawling over chairs and a great song to boot about how and why they committed their individual murders. We both reached for the gun – The highlight of the show in my book. This is sung mostly by Billy using Roxie as a ventriloquists dummy to tell the ‘story’ of her involvement in the murder in answer to the reporter’s questions. Excellent. Simply Excellent. Mister Cellophane – sung by Amos. No-one pays him any attention so he may as well be called Mister Cellophane. Cute song, gets the audience on side as he apologises for taking up too much of our time! Good one! When Velma takes the Stand – sung by Velma as she shows Billy her tricks for her court hearing before he tells Roxie all about them. ***THE CONCLUSION*** I never thought that I would like Chicago. A friend of mine had bugged me for ages to go and see it. I went with him in Manchester last year and decided to go again tonight as it was in Sheffield and only a 30 minute drive away. But I do. It is just such a pleasing show to look at, because you haven’t got 101 visual things begging for your attention. The story is good and it races along at a heady pace, but the songs and choreography are more than worth the price of the ticket. The ending feels a little too sudden, there seems to be a part of the story missing - It just feels a little clumsy to me. However, despite this it is a highly entertaining evening and I a
m seeing it again – worth five stars, but the story could have been tied up a little neater. ***CHICAGO ON TOUR*** Want to see it but nowhere near London then check this out! Until 16th March: The Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield. 0114 249 6000. 19th – 30th March: The Liverpool Empire, Liverpool. 0870 606 3536. 2nd – 20th April: The Alhambra, Bradford. 01274 752 000. 22nd April – 4th May: The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton. 01902 429 212. 20th May – 1st June: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen. 01224 641 122. 4th – 15th June: The King’s Theatre, Glasgow. 0141 287 7000. 17th – 29th June: The Grand Opera House, Belfast. 028 9024 1919. More details are promised on the tour website: www.chicagotour.co.uk ***CHICAGO IN THE WEST END*** Tickets priced: £15.00 - £37.50. Mon-Thurs/Sat 20:00, Sat Mats 15:00, Fri 17:00 and 20:30. Currently showing at the Adelphi Theatre. Box Office: 020 7413 1777 www.chicagothemusical.com www.ticketmaster.co.uk ***OTHER INFORMATION*** I saw this show on the 8th March at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre. I sat in the rear circle, but be sure you take you surgical socks with you as there is more legroom in the economy class section of an airline than there is here!! Would like to see this in London too! The Souvenir Brochure cost £5.00 had some great photos, musical numbers list and all the actors details so there was no need to buy a smaller programme as well! Parking at the Lyceum, Sheffield is easy and the theatre is signposted on all routes into the city. There is a handy NCP carpark just across the road. Buses stop outside the theatre frequently and the tram is but a short walk away! Thanks for reading. C. :o)
Chicago the musical is undergoing a brand new lease of life at the moment. The combined 'bums on seats' appeal of Denise Van Outen and Alison Moyet has meant that more people are seeing Chicago than ever before. Denise has since gone to maybe star in the Broadway version but Alison Moyet is still on board but is Chicago any good? Well, let's begin with the opening line of the show: "Welcome ladies and gentlemen- you are about to see a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery. All those things we hold dear." None the wiser? Well- put it this way Chicago is not your tradtional musical built on the notion of true love. Think about past hits of the stage- Grease, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, - each has a love story running through the core. Hence, their soundtracks have featured love songs a plenty for the audience to hum. What's so refreshing about Chicago is that the humour and the tone is very black, indeed. Roxie Hart (Anita Louise Combe) is up on a murder charge. She has killed her lover and used her charms to persuade her husband that it was self defence. It is the late 1920's - Chicago, Illinois. Women are repressed but there is a strong undercurrent which is gradually bubbling to the surface. Sisters are not only doin it for themselves, they're murdering for themselves! Roxie becomes the darling of the press and the public. Journalists want her story, women want to be her and other murderesses on trial want her dead! Velma Kelly (Leigh Zimmerman)is Roxie's main rival. Also up for murder, this foxy seductress has the wit and the glamour but seems to be in yesterday's tabloids. Will the two women team up or will they fight it out for all to see? Mamma Morton (Alison Moyet) looks after all her ladies who are on trial. She takes Roxie uner her wing, all the while heeding Velma's advice and suspicions that Roxie is a fake.
Now, this may not sound like a 'cosy' musical and it isn't. Chicago is so much more. The legendary Bob Fosse was one of Broadway's biggest stars. Chicago was created in 1975 with such love and painstaking detail that what you see on stage today is a labour of love. Think of Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, or Shirley MacLaine in Sweet Charity and this will give you some of the ingredients of Chicago. Add a dash of Rocky Horror and you are left with a breathtaking musical which is not afraid to take risks or pander to the audience. If you take your nan- warn her - the stalls will not be alive with the sound of sweet music! High kicking their way out of trouble and into the newspapers- Anita Louise Combe and Leigh Zimmerman are like Minnelli and Dietrich. They both represent women who are fed up with society and the lack of meaning in their lives. They long for passion and excitment. Their performances are so in yer face that the excitement really does transcend all around the theatre. They sure can move in a way that would make Bob Fosse very proud. Their singing voices combined with the irony in their delivery make them a double act to remember. Alison Moyet astounds everyone as Mamma Morton. Okay, her accent is more "Dick Van Dyke" than Chicago- but her singing voice blows you away and you have to surrender to her talent. She has a future in musical theatre as her stage presence is evident in the fact thst her run has been extended and the audience warm to her immediately. Not for who she is but for her delivery as many of the Americans in the audience did not know her as a household name. The dancing is superb. The whole cast perform in sinc with each other and seem to really enjoy being in such a sexy and dynamic show. Another major plus point is that not all the cast have Geri Halliwell bodies. Apart from a few pumped up people, many of the cast look like you or I and this is really encouraging as it proves that i
f you have the talent- you do not have to weigh 5 stone to get there. The music is mesmerising. Never have I tapped my foot for so long- trying to sit still- in case I suddenly got the urge to leap on stage and take part! (what a sight that would be!). All That Jazz is one of many tunes that you will know and find yourself singing to. The band give it their all too and if you do see the show, make sure you stay till the very end as they do a great encore. The set and costumes are both very minimal. The colour black connotes the colour of the humour and the cynical edge. The chairs remind you of Christine Keeler and her famous pose- reflecting the media circus that surrounds Roxie. The Orchestra are not hidden in the bowels of the theatre; they too are on stage. The costumes consist of leotards, lycra and fishnets and that's just the men! Only joking- the costumes are sexy as are the performers. They will seduce you into buying a programme in the interval! Chicago is one of the West End's most glitering jewels in a very tarnished crown. If you saw Cats and could not see what the fuss was about (Miaow!) or fancied getting the train home during the opening minutes of Starlight Express then this could be just the ticket for you. Chicago is sexy, sassy and sublime but most of all it's the most fun you could have in a theatre with your clothes on. END Want a ticket: -------------- www.ticketmaster.co.uk Need more info on this or any show? ----------------------------------- www.whatsonstage.com Wanna see the official website? ------------------------------- www.chicagothemusical.com Thanks for reading, Glenn
" Murder, Greed, Corruption, Violence, Exploitation, Adultery and Treachery ... all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts" Intriguing isn't it? Wanna know more? Well it's the opening line of 'Chicago: The Musical' playing at the Adeplhi Theatre on The Strand. And, boy, are you in for a killer night out. Written in the early 1970's by John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics), who are incidently the duo behind 'Cabaret', this is an amazing piece of theatre. It is the story of Roxie Hart's trial for the murder of her lover and her attempts to be aquitted. She vies with Velma Kelly, current darling of the press, for media attention; employs the best lawyer who "doesn't want to boast but if Jesus Christ had been born in Chicago and if he's had $5000, things mighta turned out differently"; and along the way she dances and sings her way to ... well ... I won't spoil the ending for you. Suffice to say the show finishes in STYLE! In case you haven't heard of Bob Fosse, I'll fill you in before I gon on as this is as much an homage to the Legendary Genius as it is a great production in it's own right. Fosse was a Broadway Choreographer/Director who created a style so distinctive, so electric and so sexy that even today it is instantly recognisable. Under his supervision the Broadway musical explored darker and more controversial themes than ever before. It is this style that Ann Reinking, production choreographer; Fosse protege and one time lover, re-creates so brilliantly here. Don't get me wrong, this isn't just a recreation, a carbon copy production. Reinking has taken Fosse's style; his technique and re-invented it for a modern audience. The dancers move sinuously across the stage, sometimes achieving moves you wouldn't believe were possible; sometimes the same breathtaking effect is accomplished by moving a finger or rolling a shoulder in
perfect unison. Whether it is six girls justifying murder or Roxie's "boys" fulfilling her fantasy this is by far the most seductive, and indeed the most innovative choreography on the West End stage at the moment. It has to be seen to be believed! Such choreography fits perfectly with the score. Of course, that is as it should be but all too often this just doesn't happen. The songs of Kander and Ebb are truly distinctive. A jazz style that evokes the night world which the characters inhabit. From the beginning of the show with Velma Kelly singing that she wants to "paint the town" in 'All That Jazz' (this also gives the actress, in my opinion, the best entrance in showbiz: she appears from the middle of the orchestra) through to the final numbers 'Hot Honey Rag' the music never dips below par and is always melodic and eloquent; with every number pushing the plot along while simultaneously stopping the show. Perhaps one of the reasons this show wasn't a runaway hit back in 1975, and was left to be rediscovered amongst a list of 'forgotten musicals', is that it is cynical. Not one of the most common traits in the Broadway Musical. The show portrays the American Justice Stystem as another branch of showbusiness; indeed there is one number in Act II in which Lawyer Billy Flynn conforst a worried Roxie just before her trial with "Give 'em the old razzle dazzle ... how can they see with sequins in their eyes?". But now the time is right. In the USA court cases are televised, look at the O.J. Simpson trial or the media attention of Louise Woodward. The message in this show could well be seen to be the media manipulates justice and crime elevates the media. What does the truth matter? The one moment of 'truth' in the production belongs to Hunyak and the first time I saw the show it brought tears to my eyes. As for the set, well, there isn't one. It's basica
lly just a black stage with a few chairs for the cast and the orchestra stand. Yep, they're onstage as well. They're not side-lined as they usually are in musicals. For this show they're as much a part of the action as the characters are; in fact they have their own collective character. The band-stand is edged in gold; the centre is used extensively for entrances and exits and from this vantage point the MD dances, interacts with the actors and introduces musical numbers. The Entr'Acte is a particular highlight with choreographed trumpets being just one of the entertainments on offer here. The costumes are like the set, barely there. Fishnet stockings abound,as do the basques, if it's possible for such minimal articles of clothing to abound. Of course they're all black too, and very sexy. The male dancers wear velvet, and lycra trousers and not a great deal else. The lighting compliments the rest of the visuals. It's not incredibly fancy and yet it's quite stunning, utilising a lot of spotlights. The red is particularly effective in creating the atmosphere that is so unique to this show. I've seen 'Chicago' several times now, but only with two casts and sadly not the current one. I don't think this matters too much as the show isn't a star vehicle, it will stand-up on its own and an actor would not be cast if they were less than ideal, whether they are famous or not. My first visit was when I saw two German stars taking the leads; Fredericke Haas and Anna Montanaro, both accomplished performers, if lacking a little warmth, and the show was wonderful. The next times were to see Broadway Legend Chita Rivera as Roxie. This will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. It was what musical theatre should be: funny, exciting, entertaining and exhilarating. I could wax lyrical about Chita for hours but it that wouldn't be very helpful so I'll stop now. As for the current Roxie,
it's Denise Van Outen and I hear she's marvellous. So much so that the American producers, Fran and Barry Wiessler, are whisking her off to Broadway just as soon as her contract expires in mid September. And she must be brilliant as, for all the various English casts that the show has had, this hasn't happened since the original cast of Ruthie Henshall and Ute Lemper! Catch Denise while you still can. If you can't get to London, or can't afford it as theatre tickets are quite expensive in the West End, then I would definitely recommend that you listen to the CD. It'll give a flavour of the show and you'll hear some great stars. I have 3 recordings, (yes, I know I'm obsessed. LOL) I think the London cast is the best; Ruthie and Ute's voices work well together and apart from a few dodgy accent moments I feel that it captures the atmosphere of the show the best. That said the 1975 recording has Chita! And the Broadway Revival cast is equally stunning, and has a slower pace. But I digress. Although great, a CD really is not substitute for seeing such an electric show live. There's a tour starting this Spetember too so if it comes near you go, I certainly will be. Whoever is in the cast, London or on Tour, you'll see a show that is beautifully conceived, that appeals to the senses, is funny and also relevant. A musical vaudeville of talent that will leave you breathless and also humming. "May I have my exit music please"! CASTING NEWS. Last year Denise Van Outen was such a success that the powers that be decided to whisk her off to perform on Broadway, but the events of the 11th September ensured that she's only just about repirse the role over there. Her season there will be limited because ... drumroll please... she's due back on our shores as Roxie from the 29 April! In the meantime Anita Louise Combe will be returning to the role when Clair
e Sweeney finally hangs up her West End sequins on 18 March (from what I've heard and the clips I've seen not a moment to soon). Leigh Zimmerman's Velma will vanish from our shores on the same date to be replaced by the hugely successful and talented Anna Jane Casey. If you're looking for a window in which to see Chicago at it's best, I would recommend this one, reports have it that Anna Jane is even bette than Denise! Alison Moyet's Mama Morton is also leaving to be replced by the wonderful Sue Kelvin. Although not necessarily a 'name' Sue's portrayal of the role was powerful and stunning when I saw her in the show nearly three years ago. Definately one to see. 'Wet Wet Wet' singer Marti Pellow takes over from Neil McCaul as lawyer Billy Flynn on10th June for 15 weeks only. Clive Rowe returns to the role of Amos Hart on the 21st January for 6 months until the 20th July. I think that's all the major changes, now for the New things: Chicago: The Tour The touring production of Chicago has announced an extension of it's current tour. It will now visit: 22 - 4 May: Grand Theatre Wolverhampton 20 May - 1 June: His Majesty's Theatre Aberdeen 4 - 15: King's Theatre Glasgow. 17 -29 June: Grand Opera House, Belfast 2 - 13 July: Playhouse, Edinburgh 15 -27 July: Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent 30 July - 17 Aug: Pavillion Theatre, Bournemouth 19 Aug - 7 Sept: Princess Theatre, Torquay 9 - 21 Sept: Congress Theatre, Eastbourne Links: For an article on Leigh and Chicago go to: http://www.femail.co.uk/pages/standard/article.html?in_arti cle_id=81375&in_page_id=190 "... I guess I'll go now"
I have never been a great fan of musicals, I try to avoid going to them as much as possible, and before I saw Chicago, to me it was merely a boring musical that needed avoiding. It was far from that. It turned out to be a hilarious, original, well constructed, acted and played masterpiece, full of women in little more than black lingerie! The basis of the play is to mock the typical play by the famous playwright, .... whose name I ashamedly cant remember right now (please tell me if you can) The play's crude plot is based on the constant focus of attention in the state Chicago, which EVERYONE wants. Denise Van Outen - previously underestimated by myself - plays a desperate married American who kills her lover who she is having an affair with, for cheating on her! She acts and sings surprisingly well, as well as exposing her long long legs! The orchestra are on the stage throughout playing fantastically, taking up most of it, but they become part of the play, and the conductor also has the odd, amusing line. The film continues with the woman and her agent/ lawyer, who tries to get her out of trouble, as well as into full attention from the press. Her sister, however, also wants attention, as well as several other women in the story, resulting in a witty, constant fighting of the women, to be the center of attention, the "star." The scenes are played in a surreal, but original, and funny way, weaving with the music, over the top with acting and presentation, as if to mock the thin stories of the musicals by...what’s-his-face. Another mocking is displayed by having ALL the women dressed very scantily, in black lingerie, to please the male viewers, and to add to add to the bizzarity of it all. The music, singing and dancing are also exceptional. Songs from "all that Jazz", to "Mr. Cellophane" are played in an original impressive and funny way, giving ever onlooker a big fat smile. I recommend this fil
m to just about anyone who likes a good show, good music + dance, especially couples. Not one for the children though, they wouldn't get the humour, and would get little...confused...from seeing so much bare female flesh. "The lion king" is definitely a better one for the kiddies!