Chicago – Bord Gáis Energy Theatre – Review
Aprx 2 hours 30 including 1 interval
Find out more about this production here.
This musical is set in 1926, a dangerous time in America’s past. It was an era where gangsters roamed the streets of Chicago and jazz was a new sound. We meet Fred Casely along with his lover, a chorus girl by the name of Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes of Coronation Street). Fred is attempting to break off their relationship and Roxie does not take the news well, so much so, that she shoots him dead! She is thrown into the Cook County Jail, where she meets the other female inmates, including Velma (Djalenga Scott). Once there, she plots how to free herself with the help of her dubious lawyer Billy Flynn (Russell Watson).
The musical Chicago is based on the play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, written in 1926. Amazingly, the play was largely based on fact, and it features a number of infamous court cases of the era. The musical was written in 1975 with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. It has been hugely successful and is the second longest-running show ever on Broadway, behind only The Phantom of the Opera. Many readers will be familiar with the film version, which stars Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, that won six Academy Awards in 2003, including Best Picture.
Unlike many productions that give us a variety of locations, this is performed with the simplest of staging. The 10 piece jazz band are clearly visible throughout, sitting on tiered seating behind the performers. The actors and dancers are all dressed in skimpy black clothing, giving the production a stylish and sexy look. A little imagination is required from the audience to fill in for the lack of sets, but this production is focused on the music and dance, which are hugely impressive.
The musical features a number of songs that most people will be familiar with, as they have seeped into the public consciousness. They include the anthemic All That Jazz, Cell Block Tango (where the inmates of the prison talk about their crimes and how they ended up incarcerated, with the catchy chorus line of “he had it coming” repeated throughout) and the subtle and wistful Mr Cellophane, a tale of a man who thinks he is invisible. The ten-piece band create an atmosphere that is at times euphoric, with the brass section coming to life when required.
“Cause You Can Look Right Through Me
Walk Right By Me
And Never Know I’m There…” – Mr Celophane
The musical is often billed as a battle between the two main female leads, with Velma (Djalenga Scott) and Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) battling it out for the attention of the press and the audience. They are both impressive here with Djalenga Scott playing Velma as a sharp and intense character. Faye Brookes plays Roxie with a swagger and a touch of innocence when it’s required for the camera.
This production has captured the imagination of the public for many years and it is easy to see why. It’s the type of musical you could easily go to see on more than one occasion, just to enjoy the music and dance. The movement of the ensemble cast is inventive and stylish, and it really adds to the overall piece. The music is timeless and even now almost 50 years after it was first staged, it still sounds fresh. There’s a lot to enjoy in this funny, sharp and stylish production.