KickStArt Theatre Company’s ‘Chicago’ is ‘razzle-dazzling’ entertainment

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Roxie Hart (Jessica Sole, left) and Velma Kelly (Katy Moore) make a dynamite double act in KickStArt Theatre Company’s ‘Chicago’. Photo: Val Adamson

ESTELLE SINKINS review’s KickStArt Theatre Company’s Chicago, which is at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban until April 30.

 

DURBAN’S award-winning theatre company, KickStArt, is back with a show-stopping sizzler of a show.

Chicago has been delighting theatre-goers since the original production, directed and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse, opened on New York’s Broadway on June 3, 1975. Since then it has been honoured with six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards, a Grammy and thousands of standing ovations.

While it might be set in the Roaring Twenties, Chicago seems back up to date with its satirical look at fame, justice, and the media machine.

Based on real-life murders and trials, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s hit musical tells the tale of Roxie Hart (Jessica Sole), a wannabe vaudevillian star, who murders her lover, Fred Casely (Nathan Kruger), and is arrested, despite her attempts to convince her pushover husband, Amos (Bryan Hiles), to lie for her.

In the Cook County Jail, Roxie meets her hero, the famed double-murderess and nightclub performer Velma Kelly (Katy Moore). When both acquire the same lawyer, the greedy and lustful superstar, Billy Flynn (Jason Ralph), tensions rise as they vie for the spotlight.

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Billy Flynn (Jason Ralph) and his showgirls. Photo: Val Adamson

Sole, who played the Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods, delivers a fabulous performance. Her Roxie is no dumb beauty but rather a conniving minx who knows exactly what she wants – her name up in lights. And she gets them, thanks to a massive lighting rig made by the talented Tina le Roux.

In Moore’s hands, Velma is at first arrogant and secure, and then – when Roxie steals the limelight – almost pathetic is her desperation.

Both women have great voices, delivering on the big numbers, All That Jazz and Roxie.

The production also reunites the award-winning stars of Sweeney Todd, Ralph and Charon Williams-Ros, who plays sassy prison warden, Matron ‘Mama’ Morton.

As with Sweeney, Ralph inhabits the character. His Billy Flynn is a charming sleazeball, who you can’t help liking. Williams-Ros , meanwhile, is in top form as Mama, whose system of mutual aid (outlined in When You’re Good to Mama) has helped Velma become the media’s top murder-of-the-week and is acting as a booking agent for her big return to vaudeville.

In contrast to the big personalities, Hiles brings pathos and naive charm to the role of Roxie’s hapless husband, Amos, and his performance of Mr Cellophane was probably my favourite moment in the show. His understated version of this well-known number tugs on the heartstrings and remains in the memory long after the curtain comes down.

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Bryan Hiles (left) as the hapless Amos Hart, with Jason Ralph as his wife’s lawyer, Billy Flynn. Photo: Val Adamson

Anne-Marie Clulow has fun with the role of Mary Sunshine, a sympathetic tabloid columnist, and the supporting cast of Adam Dore, Liesl Coppin, Chloe Perling, Kirsty Ndawo, Simone Mann, Janine Bennewith, Danny Guselli, Marion Loudon and Zwa Hlongwane, sizzle in every dance number.

I was especially looking forward to seeing Cell Block Tango and wasn’t disappointed. The singers nailed the song and the dancing, choreographed by Bennewith, was first class.

Steven Stead’s direction is crisp, while Greg King’s set is simple and effective, providing a great platform for the live band and musical director, Evan Roberts. The final flourish is added by Neil Stuart-Harris’ fabulous mix of twenties outfits and showstopping costumes.

Chicago is a funny, intelligent and spectacular musical triumph. Get your tickets now.

Chicago is at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban until April 30.  Tickets can be booked at Computicket.

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