CHICAGO

Wed 26th February – Sat 1st March 2014

reviews

Jennifer Bullock

at 00:34 on 27th Feb 2014

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The musical Chicago is a universal tale that encompasses the seedy underworlds of the 1920s. The promise of fame, fortune, jazz and dark mistakes, intertwined with catchy songs and sensual choreography, ensures that the musical is a global phenomenon both on stage and screen. Hild Bede’s Theatre Company certainly lived up to these standards and although there were some mistakes and weaknesses, the collegiate company certainly secured a performance that they should be proud of.

The set design of the show was simplistic but especially effective and echoed that of the West End production. The choice to place a smaller piece of set in front of the stage allowed cross cutting of scenes to take place and helped represent different locations throughout the story. This, combined with certain cast members walking through the audience, broke down Stanislavsky’s concept of the fourth wall. This successfully added a new sense of involvement and added to the element of the unknown and risqué environment that the audience were drawn into. The lighting was a real highlight of the show. The use of deep red and spotlights added to the themes of the story and lifted some of the scenes that became slightly monotonous. The lighting designers Alex Turner and Jennie Millar did an excellent job. Although there were some hiccups with microphones and a few long pauses during scene changes, the sound tech of the show ran smoothly.

Chicago follows two merry murderesses Velma Kelly (Eliza Cummings-Cove) and Roxie Hart (Lydia Feerick) in their search for fame and fortune. Lydia Feerick portrayed her character with real conviction. She was able to switch from a young, sweet and innocent dreamer, to an ambitious, confident and sassy murderer with ease. Her characterisation was well thought out and she sang with confidence. Likewise Eliza Cummings-Cove had a potent presence on stage and portrayed the darkness and poise that was essential to the character of Velma. The tone of her voice was quite unique and she sang the demanding notes of the famous numbers throughout the show effortlessly. The two girls sang beautifully together which was especially apparent in the number ‘My Own Best Friend’ - a real highlight of the first act. One area which was a little disappointing from the leads was their dancing, whilst their characterisation was superb, their confidence was lowered when concentrating on the steps. It would perhaps have been more effective if the chorus was added to iconic songs to make them a little more exciting, as all the other components were there. Despite this, their talent cannot be denied and they both did an excellent job.

Michael Yates as Billy Flynn was a joy to watch and had perfect comedic timing. His take on the precocious defence lawyer was powerful and he was thoroughly engaged in his character. However it was Harry Adair, the humble, meek and quiet Amos Hart who stole the show. The vocal quality and intonation throughout his acting ensured that he was thoroughly believable. Every aspect of his character was credible and the entire audience sympathised with his innocent and timid portrayal. His commitment to the role was fantastic.

It was clear that the chorus members were trying hard to be convincing in their roles. Their characters were well thought through and it was apparent that they were having a great time on stage. However, whilst the acting was positive the iconic dancing and company numbers of the show were below standard. Whilst the performance and facial expressions were there, the technique and choreography of the show let it down. This resulted in some numbers feeling a little flat such as the opening whereby the performers simply walk on into a position. There was a lack of originality and it often felt like the numbers were a little monotonous and lacked energy. One exception to this however was Nia Treherne who really shone in every number she was performing in. Her portrayal of a sexy murderer was natural and she danced with fluidity and energy. This was the same for Vicky Lazarus who had real sass and seduction with every move she made.

Whilst some chorus numbers were a little weak, the overall performance of this iconic musical was very successful. Every lead character is extremely talented and committed to their role. Chicago welcomes you into a world of celebrity criminals, darkness, satire and corruption. Get yourself to Caemdon Hall, Hild Bede for a brilliant night of musical theatre.

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Izzie Price

at 14:15 on 3rd Mar 2014

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There is no denying that “Chicago” is a difficult and ambitious show to stage. Set in 1920s Chicago and telling the story of two young women on trial for murder, it demands a mass of triple threat performers, a band playing almost constantly throughout the two and a half hour production and staging that can convey a variety of locations. Having seen the cast perform a selection of the numbers at the d’Oliviers Awards Ceremony a few weeks ago, I was excited and intrigued to see the rest of the show and to see if HBT would manage to pull off such a demanding musical. And I would have to say – they did.

Having said this, the opening number “All that Jazz,” fell a little flat – it’s a lengthy song and I found the dance routine slightly one-dimensional and repetitive, which wasn’t helped by the fact that the chorus were lacking in energy somewhat. However, it soon picked up pace and I quickly found myself swept into the world of 1920s Chicago. The scene transitions were (mostly) very slick and the clever lighting was aptly timed and created a very atmospheric “vaudeville” atmosphere – not easy, considering the minimalist set. The spotlights perfectly illuminated the main characters throughout the production, enabling them to show off their full potential during their various solo numbers.

The musical numbers throughout were on the whole performed very well, allowing for a few mike issues and occasional jarring notes from the band; however, I’m sure these were typical first night hitches that are easily solved. In fact, once the cast got into their stride the vocals and dancing were incredibly strong throughout. After the initial first few scenes, the chorus really came into their own, especially in the song “They Both Reached For The Gun.” This was an outstanding musical number, performed brilliantly by the cast, who didn’t show any inhibitions whatever, throwing themselves into the puppetry movement. The chorus also proved how faultless and synchronized they were as a force in the heavier dance numbers such as “Cell Block Tango,” and “Me and My Baby” – choreographers Catherine Wyatt and Katie Petty are clearly very talented.

The acting, too, was strong throughout. Lydia Feerick (Roxie Hart) and Eliza Cummings-Cove (Velma Kelly) were exceptional as the two leading ladies – they both put in confident and extremely convincing performances and both conveyed a real sense of character. Feerick was beautifully natural and interacted brilliantly with Harry Adair who played her husband, Amos Hart. However, I would have liked to see a little more facial animation from Cummings-Cove during her musical numbers; she acted brilliantly during her spoken dialogue, and her singing was exceptional – but when the two were combined there were moments when she looked slightly bored. Stand-out performances were put in by Lily Drake (Matron Mama Morton) and Harry Adair; Drake brought a burst of energy onstage with her first appearance which she retained throughout, and Adair’s brilliant comic timing and impressive characterisation certainly brought the biggest laughs of the night. Michael Yates was also impressive as the suave lawyer Billy Flynn, but he had a tendency to rush his lines – I would have liked to see him take more time with some of them, and perhaps take more pauses to give the audience a bit more time to appreciate the comedy in them. However, he was a commanding presence onstage, and was the driving force of many of his scenes, especially the “court scene”. This was a notable highlight of the show, driven by Yates, but where Feerick also really shone.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the production. While there were a few technical hitches but they did not in any way hinder my enjoyment of the show. There were moments when I could have believed I was in the West End, achieved through details such as the flashing lights at the back of the stage spelling out “Chicago” and those moments in some of the bigger musical numbers when the entire cast really gelled and vocals and dancing were perfectly synchronised. Director Michael McLoughlin should be very proud of what he and his cast have achieved, and I would like to congratulate the entire team on what they have put together: a greatly impressive and highly enjoyable production.

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Comments

Michael McLauchlan; 3rd Mar 2014; 18:03:28

Thank you for reviewing Chicago!

Can my surname be changed to "McLauchlan" please? If that is possible?

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