Chicago is the show I think about when I think about musicals. It’s my favourite. Pure and simple. Obviously, I’m delighted that it’s now performing at Auckland’s Civic Theatre until 9 September (then off to Wellington’s Opera House from 13 September).
This production is slick, sexy, sassy and sounds brilliant throughout. The performers are world class, and they’ve definitely got the voices to pull off these big numbers along with the moves to match.
An array of gorgeousness graces the stage in the tightest and skimpiest of black outfits and ‘All That Jazz’ welcomes us to 1920’s Chicago. Jazz chorus girl Roxy Hart has shot her lover and ends up in the Cook County Jail with another renowned female killer and performer Velma Kelly. There’s an insatiable appetite from the press, and the public, to hear the gory stories of the murders committed by women and these ladies are lapping up the attention. Both are facing the noose, so they bring in hotshot, smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn to try and save their necks and set them free.
Due to sickness, the part of Velma Kelly was played by Amra-Faye Wright, a seasoned performer of the part on both Broadway and in the West End (she’s even performed it in Japanese). Therefore, we were very lucky to see her here in Auckland as she gave an exuberant performance throughout playing our favourite wisecracking murderess. Young wannabe jazz starlet Roxy Hart was played by Carman Pretorius. Her Roxy was charming and equal parts butter wouldn’t melt and manipulative vixen with great chemistry with her co-stars.
But, we couldn’t help but feel the anticipation in the air waiting for Mr Flynn to arrive and when he did, he didn’t disappoint. Jonathon Roxmouth brought all the swagger, sleaze, charm and weak-at-the-knees stuff that you want from Billy Flynn. He provided a highly entertaining turn at one of the theatre’s most iconic figures. Another delight from the cast was Amos Hart, played by Grant Towers, with his ‘Mister Cellophane” was a real crowd pleaser.
All the numbers in Chicago are so loved and well known, but I never tire of hearing them performed well. The opening ‘All That Jazz’ was a brilliant showcase for Amra-Faye Wright and the ensemble cast. ‘Cell Block Tango’ was a real highlight, bringing heaps of personality and sass to the stage. However, There’s simply no match for ‘We Both Reached for the Gun” in choreography and performance and it’s perfectly executed here – try watching that without a grin on your face. It’s just an absolute banger! Another Billy Flynn led joyous performance is ‘Razzle Dazzle’ which is filled with the entertaining OTTnesss you’d expect from this showman.
The orchestra are unearthed from the usual pit and onto the stage. This was a brilliant move, the maestro interacted with the cast, and the other musicians can all be entirely part of the show which really adds to the sassy jazz club vibe.
Chicago’s classic look, sound and excellent performances make it a must see. Believe the razzle dazzle, Chicago is here for a good time not a long time so get your tickets quick!
Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar.
Photo: Jeremy Daniel.