Chicago High School Edition
4th July 2019
Easy Street Theatre Co
The Montgomery Theatre, Sheffield
Type of Production
Author: Jo Sykes
What a show! Easy Street Theatre Company took this well-known musical and made it their own. Each and every performer gave the show their all bringing downtown Chicago into the heart of Sheffield at the Montgomery Theatre. The audience entered the auditorium to find the ten-piece band already on stage with Musical Director, Gareth Lloyd. The live music was played passionately and at just the right level during the show to ensure that none of the story was lost. Throughout the production, expertly directed by Sallianne Foster-Major, the performances of the young people demonstrated that the Production Team had worked them hard to ensure that all the numbers were spot on, that the humour came through in the story and that their characters, though caricatures, were still believable and endearing to the audience. The great fixed set and atmospheric lighting on an open stage was also a welcome introduction to the night club, Vaudeville world which we were about to enter.
Chicago is a satirical take on the American criminal justice system and the concept of the ‘celebrity criminal’. It also some contains the adult themes of murder, deceit and adultery, but all were very well managed in this performance. Starting with the well known ‘All That Jazz’ the story is told by it’s cast in an entertaining interpretation of life in a US jail. Velma Kelly was played by Alice Welterman who led several of the major numbers delivering them with just the right level of passion for this murderess. I enjoyed the ‘Cell Block Tango’ and all six performers used the moving cell bars to provide a brilliant presentation of this number. Hannah Pritchard was quite a wicked Roxie Hart giving a very strong portrayal of this role. Her song and dance numbers were excellent and I particularly enjoyed ‘Me and My Baby’ where she was joined on stage by a troupe of 12 male ‘babies’ who hilariously entertained us. There was some fabulous dancing from these young men and the female dancers throughout the show. It is testament to the hard work of the Production Team that they have such a strong ensemble.
The Fosse inspired choreography was beautiful and cleverly crafted by choreographer Amanda Tyas to suit the age and abilities of these young people without loosing any of the sassiness that this show demands. ‘Razzle Dazzle’ was pure joy to watch with the talented young dancers using the fans to great effect and Harry Foster-Major as Billy Flynn demonstraing his strong singing abilities. Mama Morton was well played by Emma Neilson, who has added another great performance to her CV – a great rendition of ‘When You’re Good to Mama’. Charlie Bower was a loveable Amos Hart, the downtrodden and long suffering husband of Roxie – His Mr Cellophane was very touching.
Supported by Ed Maxted as Fred Casely, Emily Axe as Mary Sunshine, Emily Crisp as the reporter and Rhys Quinn as Fogarty all the principal cast were excellent. I was very impressed with the clear delivery of the lines with appropriate accents maintained.
Throughout the show there was super characterisation by both principals and ensemble and this was captured right up to the bows. One of the things that impresses me about ESTC is that they ‘get it’ – a show is only as good as its weakest performer so they work together as a team with no single person taking the credit and together they can give the audience a standout, all round, excellent performance. Their approach to all areas of performance is definitely beyond their years. The use of exits and entrances to keep the show tight was super and the way they interact with each other using the stage space to the best effect is testament to the stage craft work they do at Easy Street Academy all year round.
The costumes were stunning – the use of black and white throughout with a tiny glimpse of silver and red was perfect for this production. The set was well designed and expertly moved by the cast and there was effective use of lighting to give the required atmosphere.
Congratulations to everyone involved – a really wonderful production.