“ A universal tale of fame, fortune and all that jazz. „
Chicago is the marmite of musicals.....you either love it or hate it!! It is a very unusual setting for a musical as most of it takes place in a women's prison, and there is a certain amount of death in it too! I love it and it is one of my favourites but I have friends who saw it and hated it because they felt the plotline was unsuitable for a musical.
It's a great one to take the boyfriend or hubby to as the girls don't wear a huge amount of clothes and it is quite a sexy show. It has quite a lot of twists and turns in it and even has a sort of happy ending but not in the traditional sense of the word! There is some amazing tap dancing and jazz dancing in it and the songs will have you mostly tapping your feet!
The negatives as I have said in the introduction are that it is quite a dark musical...I don't want to give the story away but there are a couple of deaths and the backdrop is all about murder, seedy lives and a women's prison....it may not be the show for everyone. If you love the archetypal happy clappy musical then it's not the show for you!!
I have been fortunate enough to see Chicago twice, once in Manchester and once in London's West End. For the purpose of this review I am going to focus on the show I saw in London at The Cambridge Theatre.
Firstly we booked our tickets when we arrived in London at the TKT's booth. We saved around 50% on the cost of our ticket and were sat on the second row from the front. I would fully recommend doing this.
We got a little lost trying to find the Cambridge Theatre but there are lots of friendly people around Covent Garden to ask and we did find our way in the end.
Don't expect the show to be a carbon copy of the film, however there are all the key moments and all the key songs such as "Cellblock tango" and "all that jazz" There is a really good connection between the two actresses who play Velma and Roxy, which you certainly see more at the end of the show when they join up together.
The dancers in the show are amazing. There is a mixture of both male and female dancers all of whom are energetic and professional. The show has a very "sexy" feel to it...probably as the dancers are wearing very little!
A special mention must go to the conductor of the orchestra who is a man with so much energy it is unbelievable! He really gets you going at the end of the show.
Certainly worth going to see! I didn't purchase merchandise at this show but saw they had a range of things such as programmes, teddy bears and t shirts.
I saw Chicago for the first time a few days and have to say i was very impressed . It is currently playing at the Cambridge theatre, after downsizing from the Adelphi theatre but this does not seem to make any difference.
The story lines its self keeps you drawn in through out the whole show so that you cant believe its over in the short time of 2 hours 20 minutes which includes a 20 minute interval. for those that have seen the film, there is little difference except for a few extra songs which nobody is going to complain about, seeing as the show did come first. the actors and actresses were extremely convincing with fantastic dancing.
On a Friday there are 2 performances of the show, one at 5.00 and one at 8.00. after seeing the 5.00 matinee its always a wonder how they have so much energy to do another show just 30 minutes after the last one. The fact that it was a matinee had absolutely no effect on their performance. The only thing is the 5.00 does not give you very much time to get to the theatre so its best to be avoided and can tend to be emptier than the evening performances.
The set in the show is completely non existent except for the use of a few props such as chairs which adds to the minimalistic atmosphere created. another thing adding to this atmosphere was the complete lack of costume changes apart from one of the main characters. well that if you could call them costumes as there was very little of them. The orchestra are also on-stage which is nice as its not often that orchestras are noted for playing a large part in the running of a musical as they are usually below the stage. Another thing is that the whole of the cast were always on-stage sitting alongside throughout the performance which i'm not sure was a good or bad thing.
The theatre itself was quite small which added to the whole atmosphere. I sat in row c of the stall which gave a pretty good view. It wasn't too far forward and enabled you to see the actors faces rather than just a blur in the distance. the only thing is it would have been better to sit one or two rows back so that your could actually see the floor of the stage. The seat weren't the comfiest I have ever experienced at a theatre but gave plenty of leg room.
I went to see chicago with my wife and two children and was very dissapointed. Complete waste of my hard earned cash i cannot believe all the reviews that i read.The show had no costume changes and no change of scenery at all and after a while the singing became very annoying and over all my family found the show boring.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery. All those things we hold near and dear to our hearts..."
Chicago in the early 1930s. A city where killing is a form of entertainment and where, if you're lucky, you can get away with murder. Chicago tells the story of Roxie Hart, a woman who killed her lover and is sent to prison facing the death penalty. But Roxie's biggest ambition is to be famous and have her own vaudeville act, and she soon discovers that, with a little bending of the truth and a little media manipulation, her dreams could become reality. Cue hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn, a flash kind of guy who, by turning every trial into a media circus, has never lost a case and claims that "If Jesus Christ was alive today, living in Chicago and had $5000 things might have turned out a little differently". In prison Roxie meets Velma Kelly, a vaudeville star who shot her husband and sister after catching them in bed together. Cue intense rivalry between Roxie and Velma as they each battle for their place in the spotlight.
Chicago was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb (the same people who brought you Cabaret) in the 1970s and has experienced a fantastic revival in recent years featuring stars such as Ruthie Henshall, Ute Lemper, Denise Van Outen and Alison Moyet and won the 1998 Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production. As you will have guessed from the plot outline, it's not a cutesy storyline - it's pretty dark and the humour is black and biting.
The set is black and minimalist and really captures the jazz / vaudeville atmosphere well - the orchestra are sat on stage for the entire show, just like a cabaret revue show, and are really a part of the action and the cast sit visibly in the wings when not performing. The cast are all dressed in black fishnets, stocking and suspenders and 'dance wear' - Chicago is probably an easy sell to the men in your family! There isn't a great deal of scenery or props, only the odd chair here, or ostrich feather there, and the whole feel of the show plays on the audience's awareness that they are watching a theatrical production - there are lots of "breaking the 4th wall" asides to the audience as well as references to certain performance traditions that reinforce this.
The performances of the cast are fantastic. Currently headling the show are Aoife Mullholland (of How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria fame) as Velma Kelly and Tiffany Graves as Roxie Hart (interestingly, they've recently swapped roles which gives an interesting take on both characters). They both look and sound stunning and really capture the feel of the show well. Brenda Edwards (of X factor fame) plays Mama Morton, the warden who 'looks after' the girls, and she has a fabulously powerful and resonant voice and a good dose of attitude. I was a big fan of Brenda on the X Factor and I thought she was absolutely stunning in this. Ian Kelsey (of Emmerdale) plays Billy Flynn, and while he wasn't quite smooth enough for me and seemed slightly nervous, he played the role well. I love the fact that Chicago play upon the theme of the fickle nature of fame by casting lots of celebrities in the lead roles - luckily for this production, those celebrities pull it wonderfully and I was really really impressed. I've not been so impressed with the cast every time I've seen Chicago (Tina Arena and Ashlee Simpson were pretty disappointing!) but the current cast are well worth the ticket price. The chorus also do a great job, playing various characters throughout the show and moving together fantastically.
The music itself is great - one of the most thrilling moments in theatre is the Cell Block Tango, as each one of the "6 merry murderesses" tells the story of how she ended up in jail, how "he had it coming" - full of the blackest humour, aggression and anger. "I simply Cannot do it alone" is Velma's starring moment of desperation as she tries to convince Roxie to join her act, reeling through the moves she and her sister had put together in a bizarre "one man band" type song. "We both reached for the gun" sees Billy and Roxie speaking at a press conference, with Billy manipulating Roxie like a ventriloquist's dummy, very cleverly done. "Roxie" is Roxie's starring moment, as she fantasises about starring in her own vaudeville show, with "her boys" framing her.
The legendary Bob Fosse choreography is superb - we were lucky enough to sit right at the front of the stalls and it really is stunning to watch.
Chicago is currently showing at the Cambridge Theatre, Earlham Street,
WC2H 9HU, right smack in the middle of Covent Garden. The theatre is fairly small and one of the West End's more dingy theatres but I think actually this suits the show quite well. There isn't a huge amount of space to linger in the foyer or in the bar, but that's not something that I was particularly fussed about. What might put some people off though is the seats which are massively uncomfortable! By the end of the show my poor back was very sore!
Chicago does tend to be a show that you can get great ticket offers on - I bought ours from lastminute where we got the best available seats for £35 and ended up sitting in row D of the stalls (£65 seats). I've also seen great offers for 2 for 1 seats for Chicago, so it's definitely worth shopping around to get the best price. I should probably admit that I have seen this show about 5 times, and every time I forget until I see it again quite how fantastic it is. It's not a flashy show that relies on impressive sets or special effects, just a great score and great performances.
If you're a fan of dark humour, Chicago will be right up your street!
I've always loved the film with Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger so was thrilled when I got tickets to see Chicago the musical for my birthday last year.
The musical varies a lot from the film, to start with there are added plots, and songs. Then there are the characters - after watching Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta Jones for so long on DVD it was hard to picture the characters as other people. As a massive (slightly obsessive) fan I knew all the words to the songs and so every so often one would come along that I hadn't heard before, which was great because it took away the predictive style of the film(and gave me new songs to learn)!
Just as in the film, the musical is based around Roxie Hart, a spotlight-seeking star who, having shot her lover dead - after finding out that he wasn't going to help her achieve fame - winds up in prison. Whilst there she meets Velma Kelly a nightclub sensation, who has employed the infamous Billy Flinn to represent her in court. Jail in Chicago (Illinois, a state that held the death penalty) was a dangerous place to be because of the threat of execution if found guilty. Hart's loyal husband scrapes together the money for Flinn the lawyer then they nervously await the trail..singing and dancing all the way!
The musical was absolutely thrilling, the fantastic cast and note perfect orchestra made the show a hit. The cast were clearly multi-talented..all singing, dancing AND acting which was pretty impressive to watch!
The orchestra were great, the musical was loud, lively and sounded just like it had jumped out of a 1920's underground club!
"The character of Roxie Hart is based on 23-year-old Mrs. Beulah Annan, accused of the April 3, 1924 murder of Harry Kalstedt. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Mrs. Annan played a foxtrot record named "Hula Lou" for more than two hours in her apartment and then phoned her husband and reported that she had killed a man who "tried to make love" to her. Harry's body was discovered hunched against the wall in Belulah's bedroom. She was found "not guilty" by a jury on May 25th, 1924."*
"The character of Velma Kelly is based on Mrs. Belva Gaertner, a cabaret singer. On March 12th, 1924, the body of Mr. Walter Law was found slumped over the steering wheel of a car owned by Mrs. Gaertner. Two policemen observed a woman entering the car and shortly thereafter heard gunshots. The police found an automatic pistol and a bottle of gin on the floor of the car. She was acquitted on June 6th, 1924."*
*Taken from Chicago the musical brochure.
If given the opportunity it is an amazing experience, and if you've never seen the film before then I promise you'll love it!
Chicago the musical is currently running at the Cambridge Theatre in London. I was lucky enough to go and see the show a few weeks ago. Having seen the film version many times and loving all the songs I was really excited about seeing it live on stage.
For those of you not familiar with the story of Chicago. One of the dancers sums it up just as the overture begins with the words, "Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery, all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts." We are taken back to Chicago in the 1920's where the city is fuelled by jazz, liquor and murder! We meet Velma Kelly who is in prison awaiting trial for shooting her sister who she caught with her husband, she proclaims her innocence "I didn't do it, but if I'd done, how could you tell me that I was wrong!" Then we meet Roxie Hart a chorus girl who dreams of the big time and has just shot her lover. The story continues with their fight to get freed from prison and to get the limelight on themselves and we meet Mama Morton the prison guard who looks after her girls and the suave and smart talking lawyer Billy Flynn.
The Cambridge Theatre is not as large or as grand as many of the other London theatres however it is still a nice theatre. On the floor we were on there were 4 ladies toilets and I didn't have to queue but it was about half an hour before the show started so I imagine it would have got busier later on.
Chicago is a popular musical and over the years has attracted top names including Denise Van Outen, Marti Pellow, Jennifer Ellison, Jill Halfpenny and John Barrowman. I liked the fact that even now after the show running for a long time the cast is still full of people who I recognised. The role of Roxie Hart is played by Aoife Mulholland who will be known to many as "Irish Maria" a runner up from BBC1's very popular How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria show.
Billy Flynn is played by Ian Kelsey who played Dave Glover in Emmerdale and Dr Patrick Sapiller in Casualty. He plays the character really well and comes across very smooth and is a good singer. I just heard today that from June 2009 Jerry Springer is going to be playing the role. Personally I can't see how he will be in this role but who knows!
Mama Morton is played by Brenda Edwards who was a runner up on X-Factor in 2005. She has an amazing voice and a big personality and that really comes across in this role. Finally Amos Hart is played by Victor McGuire who has had a long running television career starring in many programmes from Bread to Brookside. He plays the character well and the audience feels sorry for the poor trodden upon husband!
The stage is not as impressive in terms of scenery as some of the other West End shows. This is a show that concentrates on entertaining through the music, singing and dancing rather than special effects or dramatic scenery. The scenery consists of a stepped stage which takes up much of the centre stage and houses the orchestra. It makes a nice change to be able to see the orchestra rather than them being hidden away down below. The other "scenery" consists of a ladder, some chairs and later a glittery curtain.
The dancers really are amazing, the routines perfect, mixing dancing with gymnastics all whilst wearing very sexy costumes. This is really a great show with some great comedy moments and lots of "razzle dazzle."
The orchestra is great with a very enthusiastic conductor who also gets to say a few lines in the show too!
Chicago is a great musical, its non-stop singing and dancing with great performances. I really enjoyed it and was entertained from beginning to end. My husband sneaked out at the interval and bought me the soundtrack on CD and I have been enjoying the songs ever since, sadly the CD is of the original London cast and personally I thought the singing of the current cast is better than the originals! I would really recommend you go and see Chicago if you get the opportunity it really is a fantastic show.
The current cast are as follows -
Roxie Hart - Aoife Mulholland
Velma Kelly - Tiffany Graves
Billy Flynn - Ian Kelsey
Amos Hart - Victor McQuire
Mama Morton - Brenda Edwards
Tickets cost from £27.50 to £55