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Chicago The Musical - Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Alison Smith on 14th Mar 2016 | View all blogs by Alison Smith

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 By Alison Smith

 Reviewed by Alison Smith 14th March 2016

The song Razzle- Dazzle sums up the musical Chicago. The audience is dazzled by the music and pace of the dancing, beguiled by the dishonesty, and mesmerised by  the characters into thinking that Chicago in the ‘20s was a sexy, sassy, exciting city. It was, however, a place of greed, gangster and murder. In the musical, murder and justice become a form of entertainment; and what entertainment!

The stage design is simple; the set is stark, just a few wooden chairs, two ladders, some feathers and the band, but this plain, dull setting offsets the action. The story is loosely based on the lives of two women, Belva Gaertner and Beulah Annan who were accused of murder, but acquitted. In Chicago The Musical their personas have become Velma Kelly ( portrayed by Sophie Carmen-Jones) and Roxie Hart ( Hayley Tamaddon); the former is accused of shooting her husband and sister when she caught them in flagrante, and Roxie of killing her lover when he threatened to leave her -  her defence cleverly and masterly sung in We both reached for the gun. Velma and Roxie, aided by the corrupt gaoler, Mama Morton (Sam Bailey), hire the high-priced slick, sleazy criminal lawyer, Billy Flynn (John Partridge). Roxie understands that her trial is a show-biz opportunity which will bring longed for fame and fortune. In court Flynn convinces the judge and male juror– helped by the woman’s charms – of her innocence. The journalists in the court scene are not so different from those of today – hungry for an exclusive story and paper- selling headlines.( A D Richardson gives voice to a wonderful Mary Sunshine.) The four main characters shine and sizzle. The now classic songs, especially All I Care About and Cell Block Tango, are sung with confidence verging on abandon. This is a story of unlikeable, self-centered  people and the audience should take against them and yet, strangely, the show, through the music and energy is wonderfully cathartic

The band occupies centre stage throughout and this gives immediacy to the music, composed by John Kander with unforgettable lyrics by Fred Ebb. The musicians seem to be straight out of the ‘20s. The 2nd Act opens with Entr’acte  and for once the musicians become movers too -  with some great individual styles. This piece is one of the highlights.

The choreography by Ann Reinking is in the style of Bob Fosse and the dancers’ interpretation of the music is superb; their synchronisation is step perfect. The female chorus in short, sequined dressed are brash, sexy and gutsy; the male dancers, rippling and grinding, match them in sexiness, energy and athleticism.

All in all, this musical is brilliant, forceful, sexy and gutsy. It should not be missed. 

 CHICAGO. Sophie Carmen-Jones as 'Velma Kelly'. Photo by Catherine Ashmore (1).jpgimage copyright Catherine Ashmore

At MK Theatre until Saturday 19th March

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

 

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