Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Truly spell-binding performances


Aberystwyth Arts Centre , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , August-06-10
Chicago by Aberystwyth Arts Centre One of my favourite shows of all time is ‘Chicago’ and when I heard that Aberystwyth Arts Centre had secured it for their 2010 Summer Season I was ecstatic. I sat down expecting the usual, black box set, mainly focused on the orchestra, with black costumes and limited props. I was completely wrong and am delighted to be for the first time in my life. The set designed by Ali Allen was sublime. On entering the theatre, the set was masked by several pieces of material and as the overture began to play the cast ripped them down to reveal the most amazing set ever to grace this Aberystwyth stage. The band took up a small corner cell and the stage had been enlarged to accommodate several cells, a staircase and a range of levels which enabled the cast to bring this wonderful story to life. The lighting designed by Iestyn Griffiths worked seamlessly to enhance the set and the lighting truly captured each scenes intent and each individual element created such an atmosphere in the theatre that I am still buzzing from the experience.

Directed and Choreographed by Anthony Williams his vision has completely reformed this show. The idea of the vaudeville musical has been limited in the recent Broadway and West End versions of the show. Anthony Williams however restored the original concept and took it to new heights. The ‘Fosse’ style is paid homage to but not solely enforced, there are influences across the board and the choreography is truly staggering. Musical Director Michael Morwood has created a fantastic sound from his company, from the chorus harmonies to the massive showstoppers (of which there are plenty) each number was close to perfection.

The term the hardest working cast in show business has been thrown about a great deal. In my 34 years of attending the theatre, I can honestly say that this cast do not stop. Shona Lindsay (Roxie) and Carrie Ellis (Velma) are the two heroines who see themselves landed in jail after killing their lovers. Both desperate for fame and fortune we see them exploiting their ‘misfortune’ to gain their deepest, darkest desires. Both women have moments that completely blow the audience away. Miss Lindsay’s renditions of ‘Roxie’ and ‘Funny Honey’ were phenomenal. She held the audience completely in her hand and her portrayal of this manipulative wannabe was terrifically terrifying and poignant. Her vocal ability is truly incredible. Miss Ellis brought great comic relief in her performance as Velma Kelly, but the audience also glimpsed her vulnerable side, and she left the audience rooting for her success. ‘All that Jazz’ and ‘I can’t do it alone’ were both showstoppers and Miss Ellis knows how to take the stage.

Ian Knauer (Billy Flynn) was the perfect manipulative lawyer, who showcased a great voice and (in the words of my wife) a dazzling smile. Mr Knauer was lucky enough to have the two most colourful and ingenious numbers in the show. ‘All I care about is love’ which was modelled on the Zeigfeld Follies was stunning and ‘Razzle Dazzle’ was so amazing there was not enough time to take in everything on the stage. It is indeed a feast for the eyes and I will definitely be going to see it again, if only for this number.

David Barrett (Amos) played the sensitive, foolish husband and the audience completely empathized with him, ‘Mister Cellophane’ was another highlight and Mr Barrett’s vocal and acting ability deserve utmost praise. Aberystwyth’s own songstress Rachel Crane understudied (Mary Sunshine) she not only proved that she belongs on the professional stage, but she belted out an amazing vocal for ‘A Little Bit of Good’ which showcased her incredible range perfectly and was truly hilarious with her onstage vocal warm up’s in Roxie’s Trial. ‘Elizabeth Diamond’ (Mama Morton) played a funny and sometimes sinister Mama Morton, and is undoubtedly an incredible dancer, and ‘Miss Diamond’s’ performance was enjoyable from start to wig dropping finish.

The ensemble were all enchanting, ‘Cell Block Tango’ was indeed a showstopper and the male dancers remained onstage for the majority of the numbers. It is obviously an extremely talented cast and I am sure that this show is going to get better and better. There is so much going on in this show that I feel my words will not be adequate to do it justice, the only way of imparting my experience to you, is to share it with you. Chicago is a fantastic, rip-roaring raunch delving into 1920’s jazz, sex, scandal and liquor. With a phenomenal set, breath-taking costumes and truly spell-binding performances this is a show not to be missed.

Reviewed by: Paul Hodges

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