Chicago – Phoenix Theatre Booking until 6th October

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Review Caroline Hanks-Farmer

Chicago is in my top ten favourite musicals and to say I’ve seen it many more times than other shows, would be true. I also had the extreme pleasure of attending the launch and interviewing four of this key cast, which can be read here. 

Background

CHICAGO, which is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The 1996 Broadway revival of CHICAGO was choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse, directed by Walter Bobbie, and produced by Barry and Fran Weissler.

The story illustrates lust, greed, notoriety, and a hunger for fame, amongst other themes.

Photo Credit ©Tristram Kenton

Review

It’s always a worry that with such a specifically stylised show that any changes could dramatically affect it. That argument can also be used in reverse if you don’t change anything, it could appear stale rather than fresh. Thankfully I’d prefer to have no great surprises and to know exactly what I’m going to see. This production has been subtly freshened but for someone who is seeing it for the first time it has all the sass and sexiness you want.

Photo Credit ©Tristram Kenton

Which can also be said for the cast. Josefina Gabrielle delivers Velma with fresh power and über sex appeal. Her dancing and voice oozes class. The same can be said for Sarah Soetaert as Roxie. What you see here is a complete understanding of the role, talent and fun. I was reminded how funny this show could be with some quick-witted lines delivered with panache none more so than from Ruthie Henshall. Henshall’s Mama Morton was played with style and maturity which can only be delivered through experience. Of course this was only to be expected as Ms Henshall is after all a record-breaker, being the only person to have held all three leading roles. You certainly saw that this added depth to the character, with vocals as always a strength.

Photo Credit ©Tristram Kenton

Long-suffering ‘cellophane’ husband Amos was played endearingly by Paul Rider. Ann Reinking once again ensures that execution of the original Fosse choreography is perfect and never ceases to delight me. The hugely talented ensemble were instrumental to this and were en point throughout. Its 13 piece orchestra under the entertaining Musical Direction of Ian Townsend was an absolute joy bringing the jazz element really to the forefront.

 

Photo Credit ©Tristram Kenton

Cuba Gooding Jr was to some, particularly musical theatre aficionados, a worrying casting. Certainly not known for appearing in musicals, his demonstration of acting skills should put all the doubters to shame. Gooding has openly admitted that vocals are not his strength, and whilst this is clearly evident it didn’t detract from the entirely credible, charismatic and solid performance as Billy Flynn. We even saw a little movement and soft shoe shuffle delivered well. It looked like Gooding was thoroughly enjoying being on a West End stage.

You are now probably beginning to wonder why this isn’t a five-star review reading this? Well there were a number of minor points that irked me. One of those was at times the pace and energy seemed to drop. I’m not sure what caused this but it did surprise me and affect my overall enjoyment.

That said the ‘Razzle Dazzle’ and sparkling performances made me leave with a firm smile on my face. It would be simply criminal to miss this production, so you know what to do don’t you – book those tickets and ‘all that jazz’……!

LISTINGS INFORMATION

Phoenix Theatre

110 Charing Cross Road

London WC2H 0JP

Box Office: 0844 871 7629 / www.atgtickets.com/shows/chicago/phoenix-theatre

Ticket Prices: From £20.00

Performances: Monday-Saturday 8pm, Wednesday & Saturday 3pm

Booking Period: Currently Booking Until 23 June 2018

Running Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes (with interval)

Website: ChicagoWestEnd.com

Twitter: @ChicagoOnStage

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