To stage a show with just one-third useable stage is available is a bold move for any production company, with the majority of the stage for Theatre Royal’s ‘Chicago’ was occupied by a large stand for the eleven-person orchestra leaving the remaining area free for the delicate footwork that would follow the next three hours. Yet, this show proves that you don’t need a large space to truly razzle dazzle an audience.
Chicago is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history and the second longest-running show in Broadway history, behind only the Phantom of the Opera, and these are big dance shoes to fill. The production has been stripped of the glitz and glamour often associated with Broadway musicals with little in the way of ornate props or staging. The cast make full use of the remaining stage, in addition to two ladders adorning the wings. Hayley Tamaddon swings from the top of the ladder during her opening solo, ‘Funny Honey’ and brings a humour to Roxie’s character.
Yet, this is why the placement of the orchestra is so effective: placing the jazz band centre stage ties them closely into the heart of the production. The chemistry between the musicians and cast members is palpable, particularly during their brief exchanges. The team raise the roof during the bigger numbers and provide perfect background for the quieter moments of the production.
Sophie Carmen-Jones and Hayley Tamaddon play the leading duo -Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart – respectively. Along with Lindsey Tierney, Ellie Mitchell, Nicola Coates, Frances Dee and Chelsea Labadini, their rendition of The Cell Block Tango is witty yet mesmerizing. Each bring their own unique humour to the part, yet the group also move so completely in sync, fingers clicking and limbs twirling in complete harmony with one another.
Yet it was Neil Ditt’s Amos Hart that stole my… well, heart. Playing the part of Roxie’s loving and manipulated husband, his rendition of Mister Cellophane was perfectly pathetic, complete with awkward jazz hands. Ditt manages to make the blandest character one of the most memorable. In fact, his entire performance can be described as delightfully awkward: from the awkward to stoop of his shoulders to his awkwardly hilarious exit from stage. He reminds us of every boy we’ve ever friendzoned and all the men we know we should love, but yet refuse to date anyway.
Having never seen Chicago I wasn’t sure what to expect however, my date for the night was a razzle dazzle veteran and both enjoyed the production immensely. Everything about this production is bold, from the position of the orchestra, to the stripped back staging. Yet, Chicago just shows that you don’t need to adorn your set in glitz, because the true glamour lies in the talents of the cast.
Chicago is on stage at Theatre Royal until Saturday 5th November 2016.