Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0JP
With a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Webb, Chicago premiered in 1975. Revived in the West End by director Walter Bobby in 1997, the production won the Olivier award for outstanding musical in 1998. To celebrate the 21st anniversary of the 1997 revival Chicago returns to the West End for a limited run.
Based on Maurine Dallas Watkins 1926 play of the same name, Chicago tells the story of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two wannabe vaudeville stars and murderers who find themselves imprisoned together in Cook County jail. They both fight each other for popularity and fame, assisted by corrupt prison guard Mama Morton and crooked lawyer Billy Flynn.
Stage designer John Lee Beatty has created a one set show with centrally located steps and full length rigged ladders that stand at either side of the stage.
The orchestra are situated on the stage and remain there throughout the production. The brass section of the orchestra, under the skilful direction of Ian Townsend, are marvellous and delivered the familiar score with pizzazz and enthusiasm. The performance of Mr Cellophane during the overture of Act Two thoroughly deserved the rapturous applause and cheers from the appreciative audience.
The sultry costumes designed by William Ivey Long are mainly black in colour and reflect the jazz night club culture of the era.
Original choreography by Ann Reinking, in the style of Bob Fosse, is delivered with style and professionalism by the extremely talented troupe of dancers. This is demonstrated in the number Cell block Tango which was performed with energy, sass and sharp precision resulting in a fabulous number.
Joining the cast as smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn is Martin Kemp. Kemp’s initial nerves in his opening number quickly subsided to ensure that he delivered a competent professional performance much to the appreciation of his dedicated fans in the audience, many who had made the journey to London just to see him perform.
Paul Rider is excellent as the down trodden Amos Hart, creating a character that the whole auditorium felt sorry for. Rider’s delivery of the number Mr Cellophane was superb.
Josefina Gabrielle gave an outstanding performance as the sassy, cool, viper tongued Velma Kelly. I particularly enjoyed her delivery of the number I can’t do it alone.
Sarah Soetaert is exceptional as Roxie Hart, creating a character that is mischievous, kooky and fierce.
Both Gabrielle and Soetaert are skilful dancers, excellent singers, have fantastic stage presence and great chemistry with each other which enhances both performances. It was a real honour to have witnessed them both together on the West End stage.
This revival remains unchanged from the last production of Chicago DT and I saw a few years ago. However, with outstanding individual performances, great dance routines, a familiar score delivered by a top class “big band” orchestra, Chicago proves it still has the power to “razzle dazzle” the audiences of the West End.
Chicago runs at the Phoenix theatre until 5th January 2019.
Theatretastic rating 4/5
Sassy, slick and sexy
We say: “With outstanding individual performances, great dance routines, a top class “big band” orchestra, Chicago proves it still has the power to razzle dazzle the audiences of the West End!”