Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A razzle dazzle summer spectacular

Chicago

Aberystwyth Artys Centre , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , August-23-10
Chicago by Aberystwyth Artys Centre Anthony Williams has given Aberystwyth a summer spectacular that not only razzle dazzles the packed audiences but adds a fresh interpretation to this musical whose popularity shows no sign of fading.

What I am not so certain about is whether this is all by design or partly due to the cast available to Williams. Either way right from when we open the programme and see not a Catherine Zeta Jones glamour puss but a hard faced, hair combed back jail bird we know this is something different.

What is not in doubt is the jaw dropping theatrical experience. This is a Chicago that evokes the Hollywood blockbuster rather than the original stage show that was very much like its big brother Cabaret centred around a band on a simple nightclub stage setting.

Here designer Ali Allen gives the jail the entire stage, putting the band off into one cell from where the narrator and conductor Tim Whiting introduces those songs, but adds a large staircase that enables the creation of other scenes.

Neither is there any questioning the energy, passion and professionalism of this cast as it powers through the performance combining those show stoppers that here are truly awesome and some beautiful singing of those songs from John Kander and Fred Ebb.

While of course the two leading ladies have most of the big hitters just as memorable were Ian Knauer’s perfect portrayal of the gorgeously insincere Billy Flynn and David Barrett’s singing of Mr Cellophane as Amos Hart.

Without being indelicate the combination of Shona Lindsay as Roxie and a more mature Carrie Ellis as Velma added an interesting twist to the relationship between the two women. While Roxie tells us she is older than she ever intended to be as she struggles to get on the showbiz ladder we get the impression Velma is struggling to stay on it.

Slightly more jarring is the amount of drag show glamour that risked transposing the atmosphere from Chicago jazz club to La Cage aux Folles. It was a fun twist having Elizabeth Diamond as a husky Mama Morton who transforms (a la Rocky Horror) into a suspender-wearing gal. But the conceit grew a little tired as the show went on.

Also amusing was Julia J Nagle singing an over the top operatic Mary Sunshine.

The band was terrific and the standing ovation undeniably deserved.

Reviewed by: Mike Smith

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