At its best, Chicago is a biting, hilarious and glamorous satire. This production demonstrates a great balance of all the razzle-dazzle you would expect with this show whilst possessing a very welcome comedic humility.
The cast of performers are fit for their respective roles. The ensemble was worked astutely and intelligently and lent themselves tremendously to many of the set pieces of the show, and all were at the level set by their main roster counterparts. Faye Brookes’ portrayal of Roxie Hart is brilliantly devious and glamorous, yet refreshingly is a portrayal possessing fantastic comedic sensibilities. Jamie Baughan’s Amos Hart almost steals the show, a performance rich in pathos. Michelle Andrews stepped into the role of Mama Morton with an equally admirable poise.
One of the show’s high points, the rendition of ‘We Both Reached for the Gun’ was beautifully silly and comedic, but most importantly impeccably committed to. Its moments like this where the show is at its best – where the visual set pieces are rife and strong, the music gorgeous (as it is for every minute of this production) and the characters bursting with life. Predictably the Cell Block Tango sits in the same arena. When Velma Takes the Stand, All I Care About and Razzle Dazzle are well-orchestrated set pieces that feel busy and engaging. This business is utilised sparingly but works to the piece’s favour because of this.
Mister Cellophane is an example of the strength of simplicity in an otherwise ‘busy’ show. The subtlety of the visual imagery here is its strength – small gestures become large. White gloves become huge feather plumes. It needs not compete with its sibling songs as it is its own type of performance. It’s a shame, as despite the strength in simplicity being found here, elsewhere it feels somewhat weaker. Some of the steadier songs are accompanied by an even steadier choreography, and an often unambitious lighting design. I suspect the mundanity of some of the performances is actually what accentuates the more explosive parts of the show, but nevertheless I felt in a few instances in the first act that what I’d just seen was very safe and unadventurous. There is a great theatrical understanding at work throughout the piece, and perhaps this is what encourages me to seek it out so deliberately and why I felt a bit short-handed in moments.
Nevertheless, the piece is strong and potent. Chicago is a great night out, full of great songs and great performances. Playing until 9th July, https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/events/chicago
Reviewer: Morgan Evans
Reviewed: 5th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★