Phoenix Theatre, London – until 6 October 2018
It’s always a worry that with such a specifically stylised show as Chicago any changes could dramatically affect it. That argument can also be used in reverse if you don’t change anything, it could appear stale rather than fresh. Thankfully I’d prefer to have no great surprises and to know exactly what I’m going to see. This production has been subtly freshened but for someone who is seeing it for the first time it has all the sass and sexiness you want.
Which can also be said for the cast. Josefina Gabrielle delivers Velma with fresh power and über sex appeal. Her dancing and voice ooze class. The same can be said for Sarah Soetaert as Roxy. What you see here is a complete understanding of the role, talent and fun. I was reminded how funny this show could be with some quick-witted lines delivered with panache, none more so than from Ruthie Henshall.
Henshall’s Mama Morton is played with style and maturity which can only be delivered through experience. Of course, this is was only to be expected as Henshall is after all a record-breaker, being the only person to have held all three leading roles. You certainly see an added depth to the character, with vocals as always a strength.
Long-suffering ‘cellophane’ husband Amos is played endearingly by Paul Rider. Ann Reinking once again ensures that execution of the original Fosse choreography is perfect and it never ceases to delight me. The hugely talented ensemble is instrumental to this and are on point throughout. Its 13-piece orchestra under the entertaining musical direction of Ian Townsend is an absolute joy, bringing the jazz element really to the forefront.
Cuba Gooding Jr was to some, particularly musical theatre aficionados, a worrying casting. Certainly not known for appearing in musicals, his demonstration of acting skills should put all the doubters to shame. Gooding has openly admitted that vocals are not his strength, and whilst this is clearly evident it didn’t detract from the entirely credible, charismatic and solid performance as Billy Flynn. We even saw a little movement and soft shoe shuffle delivered well. It looked like Gooding was thoroughly enjoying being on a West End stage.
You are now probably beginning to wonder why this isn’t a five-star review reading this? Well there were a number of minor points that irked me. One of those was at times the pace and energy seemed to drop. I’m not sure what caused this but it did surprise me and affect my overall enjoyment.
That said the ‘Razzle Dazzle’ and sparkling performances made me leave with a firm smile on my face. It would be simply criminal to miss this production, so you know what to do don’t you – book those tickets and ‘all that jazz’……!