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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Chicago and the Triple Threat

Chicago is the musical that has everything. The brilliant ‘triple-threat’ performers (singers, actors, dancers) storm the stage with such confidence that one trembles with excitement.

Currently showing at The Cambridge Theatre in the heart of Covent Garden the show oozes sassy style. The stage is dominated by the 14 piece band led by the very jolly Ian Townsend, who occasionally chirps up to introduce the acts. The interaction between musicians and actors throughout makes you feel a bit like you’re in Ronnie Scott’s jazz bar round the corner in Soho. Apart from the band and a few chairs the set is almost non- existent, which surprisingly works really well. Ensemble characters lurk on the edges of the stage for the majority of the show, becoming the musical’s set.

The dynamic between the show's two divas - Roxie Hart (a Marilyn Monroe esque Sarah Soetaert) and Velma Kelly (the sexy Vivien Carter) is brilliant to watch; they spark off each other to produce great theatre. For me it is the dancing that is most impressive. Chicago is an important piece when you consider the history of musical theatre, especially the choreography and the Bob Fosse phenomenon. With sharp, stylised movements, Fosse gave his dancers something to think about during their numbers.

As much as I love the show, I feel I should mention the shortcomings of the theatre it calls home. I found the Cambridge very uncomfortable and chilly. Despite sitting in the central stalls the seats were cramped and there was a persistent breeze that annoyingly distracted me. The nature of the musical lends itself to a smaller, more intimate venue, but because of its popularity, of course ends up in a large theatre. Perhaps it would be more suited to one of the more petite West End establishments like The Duchess.

Chicago is a timeless classic that everyone should see once. It is a true piece of musical theatre history.

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