Chicago – Pleasance Courtyard

Set during the height of the jazz age, Chicago follows the story of two young murderesses, Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly, as they try to “razzle-dazzle” their way out of jail and into stardom.

We are welcomed to the show with the slow building tantalising opening number “All That Jazz” performed by Miss Kelly herself. The song climaxes with the murder of Roxie Hart’s lover Fred Casely in the background of the dance number as he attempts to break off an affair with her, setting the scene for the rest of the show.

Along the way we are introduced to some of Chicago’s most colourful characters and memorable show tunes. From Mistress Mama Morton played by Niamh Higgins with her fabulous rendition of “When you’re good to Mama” to Lawyer Billy Flynn’s charming “All I Care About” expertly played by Matthew Storey, we see first-hand what people of this age want. Money. Power. Entertainment. The essentials. 

I was surprised to find that I liked Storey’s portrayal as much as the two leading ladies. This was due to his impressive belting voice and comedically timed chuckles. He was one smooth criminal lawyer.

Lauren Robinson brings an icy femme fatale feel to her role of Velma Kelly, which is the perfect contrast to Rebecca Joyce’s sweet yet sassy portrayal of Roxie Hart. The playful chemistry between the two was one of the most enjoyable parts of the show, making the payoff when they finally come together in the end that much more satisfying.

A special shoutout is due to the president of Footlights, Connie McFarlane, whose operatic range and reveal as the journalist, Mary Sunshine, is truly showstopping. In fact, the whole cast blew me away with their singing talents. Just as impressive, if not more so, is the sound of the live band, which spices up the evening wonderfully.  The balance of the music and singing, which complement, rather than compete with, each other is very pleasing – “Cell Block Tango” will give you chills. 

There are some numbers where Florence Hardy’s choreography really stands out, including “We Both Reached for the Gun”, where the cast perform as puppets, or “Razzle Dazzle”, where the more flexible cast  members could show off their moves. 

There were some instances where I was left wanting more, however, but that may be due to my high expectations of the musical itself.  Although the singing was impressive and the acting adept, I was left unsatisfied in the set and costume department. The decision to keep the chorus in all black meant they did not stand out from the dark background. 

Whilst I didn’t have trouble hearing them, there were plenty of times when the cast merged into one during various dance numbers and I struggled to follow the movement. The bare set kept the focus on the performance but did not allow me to fully immerse myself in the story. Perhaps if the set design and costumes were more colourful, then it would have allowed the cast to stand out more.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for something to heat things up this cold February, then join the Footlights production of Chicago for a sizzling sensation that will banish those winter blues.

 

PHOTOS: Andrew Perry

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Steph Taylor

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