It may have been a cold and dreary winter’s evening in Nottingham, but Musicality expertly transported their audience to the smoky streets of 1920s Chicago with their annual large-scale production, Chicago.
A salacious tale of crime and passion, Chicago follows the story of chorus girl Roxie Hart who murders her lover after he tries to end their affair. Newly incarcerated, Roxie enlists the help of Chicago’s greatest lawyer, Billy Flynn, much to the chagrin of Velma Kelly, a vaudeville star also in prison for murdering her husband. The pair compete to be Chicago’s latest and greatest murderess (and media darling) in the hopes of winning themselves a one-way ticket to stardom.
“New perfectly captured Roxie’s childish demeanour with flair”
I’m a firm believer that any production of Chicago relies on the performances of its two central women, and so I was delighted to see newcomers Catherine New and Katie Dart (playing Roxie and Velma, respectively) embodying their roles with such skill and passion. New perfectly captured Roxie’s childish demeanour with flair, whilst also allowing the audience to see her scheming nature beneath the theatrics. Her solo songs were also wonderfully performed, helped in no small part by New’s frankly outstanding voice.
“The real joy, however, was seeing how the two actresses interacted”
Dart, too, powerfully commanded the stage whenever she appeared, but I was also pleased to see a sense of vulnerability in her performance, adding depth to her character. Her sultry voice was in perfect contrast to New’s but no less impressive. Dart’s dancing was also remarkable; dynamic and lively in true vaudevillian style. The real joy, however, was seeing how the two actresses interacted – it is a testament to their acting abilities that they were able to deliver such strong individual performances whilst also working together seamlessly as each other’s foil.
“Matthews elicited real sympathy from the audience”
The male characters were also wonderfully delivered. Robin Ramsay was charmingly arrogant in his portrayal of Billy Flynn, with a smirk that never quite left his mouth and his stage presence only grew as the night went on. His vocals were once again outstanding, smooth and controlled as befits a star lawyer. The real audience favourite of the night, however, was Jack Matthews as Amos Hart, Roxie’s downtrodden husband. Matthews elicited real sympathy from the audience with his stuttering and shy mannerisms, so it was a satisfying surprise to see him finally shine in ‘Mr. Cellophane’ with unexpectedly powerful vocals.
Lucy Avery as Mama Morton was another standout performance – as ever, her vocals were extremely impressive and made ‘When You’re Good to Mama’ an especially enjoyable number. Her jazzy tones also blended very well with Dart’s in their duet. Siska Greene as comically emotional reporter Mary Sunshine contrasted the overriding cabaret tone with her controlled operatic voice, whilst Paolo Elias as the Emcee really helped to tie the whole evening together.
“Choreographing such an iconic show is a tough task but Hattie Rothwell-Inch rose to the challenge”
Choreographing such an iconic show is a tough task but Hattie Rothwell-Inch rose to the challenge, staying true to the spirit of Fosse, especially elevating the performance in the large group numbers for which Chicago is so famous. I’m sure it was under her watchful eye that the ensemble were able to perform so well, brilliantly synchronised and energetic throughout – they brought an extra dimension to the show that would have felt flat without them.
“The sparse staging, however, enabled the band to be visible throughout, adding to the sense of a cabaret performance”
Adriana Dvorakova as director brought the show together extremely well, drawing out comedy and pathos in just the right places from her actors whilst making the show a spectacle for the audience. This was especially impressive within the limitations of a student budget, perhaps the only drawback of the show but one for which the cast and crew cannot be blamed. The sparse staging, however, enabled the band to be visible throughout, adding to the sense of a cabaret performance. They performed Kander’s score with slick professionalism as well as showmanship, conducted expertly by musical director Matt Talbot. Pleasingly, we were also given the opportunity to show the crew the appreciation they deserved for their skillful and efficient work.
“A fantastically entertaining evening”
As a student production this is certainly something of which Musicality and the university can be extremely proud – a fantastically entertaining evening with brilliant performances all round, and one that certainly merited the 15-minute wait in the freezing temperatures for the tram home!
The final performances of Chicago will be on Saturday 15th of November at 2:30PM and 7:30PM.
Featured Image courtesy of Chicago – Musicality’s 2019-2020 Annual Production. Image use license found here.
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