Chicago

Date 3rd April 2019
Society South Manchester AOS
Venue Z-Arts
Type of Production Musical
Director Kevin Proctor
Musical Director John G Barry
Choreographer Kevin Proctor

Report

Author: Liz Hume-Dawson

Director and choreographer Kevin Proctor takes on the challenge of Chicago with a well drilled cast. Stark black setting with three sets of stairs and orchestra set into the staging. Clean and classic with the letters Chicago in lights hung from the ceiling and three sets of stairs pointing to the audience pitch-fork style, with a bead of lighting on every centre step – this created a very dramatic effect (see Gold Diggers of 1933!).

Lots of little touches from Kevin with the overture - Mama Morton and Billy Flynn handing out murder weapons to the girls. How Roxy used the band (more of that later), the court stenographer using her leg to type on. How the choreography was true to Fosse - very stylised and on pointe.

I just wasn’t sure if the song ‘Hula Lou’ played on the radio at the beginning was a tad too long, but it was evident Kevin had a strong vision and this came through very clearly - wonderful!

Musical Director John G Barry and the orchestra were like another cast member by being integrated into the show (I love it when the music completes the cast and you cannot see the seam - excellent!).

Velma Kelly played by Phillipa Shellard - I certainly believed that she would shoot both her sister and husband if they crossed her. Strong casting. She had great rapport with Roxy and Mama Morton, played by Stephanie Niland. ‘Class’ was fantastic and their voices really blended beautifully. Stephanie Niland looked to be enjoying every moment playing Mama and I loved the comedy she achieved with the part and the nuances.

Roxie played by Kirsty Podlaski simply blew me away, I actually think at one point I was mesmerised by her. The song “I Know a Girl” was just amazing - the use of John G Barry and her taking over the orchestra was a genius move and executed to perfection. The famous “Both Reached for the Gun” with Billy Flynn and the chorus was so strong and slick. Kirsty’s characterization simply beautiful and delicately done throughout, worthy of the West End.

Billy Flynn played by Paul Allison again strong casting as the sleazy buck-making lawyer, holding on that long note while checking his bow tie and cuff links - brilliant.

Amos Hart played by Jack Hawkins had just the right touch of the used, invisible husband. The manner in which the white gloves were used in “Mr Cellophane” for an actor playing an unspectacular character was a very spectacular moment and one that had a very different feel from the rest of the show, gaining the audience’s sympathy - boom!

Mary Sunshine played by S J Murray – Wow! having the right impact on most entrances and reveal moment. Can I get an Amen?!

The cast were strong and there was not a weak link, the women prisoners in ‘Cell Block Tango’ were all sexy, strong in character/pose and looked very striking in their various black outfits, all bringing out their personalities from protesting their innocence to maniacal laughing.

Costumes throughout looked good and stylised. Lighting did have some first night glitches, but this did not deter from the whole effect.

I have seen this musical a few times, even in London with David Hasselhoff and I have to say this show stands a worthy cellmate alongside the West End production….’And That’s Good, Isn’t It?’

As always thank you for making my husband and I so welcome

Standing ovation well deserved!