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Evergreen Sassy, Smart & Cynical


Coleg Ceredigion Performing Arts , Castle Theatre, Aberystwyth , June 15, 2019
Chicago by Coleg Ceredigion Performing Arts I like ambition. I like the opportunity to see a new generation of performers. And I like Kander and Ebb. All three come together in this production of “Chicago.” Carl Lewis takes on- as a year ago with “Cabaret”- the triple role of director, choreographer and musical director. To act is a demanding craft, so too is to sing. The heart of musical theatre is to do both at the same time. So it is the achievement of Lewis to have mined such gold from his young cast.

Harriet Evola-Quinn's Velma has a cynical mid-west drawl, that comes from a mouth that can twist fifteen degrees north or south. Jessica Finnegan gives a great bluesy finish to “When You're Good to Mama.” Jessica Harwood is a ludicrously over-the-top Mary Sunshine, Zoe Lister has all the pathos of Hunyak with her belief to the end in Uncle Sam and her sole phrase “not guilty.” The tight company has Lorna Monaghan, Faye Brightman and Ruby Wilde swapping roles as investigators, press and jury members

Jay Boswell is prone on the floor for fifteen minutes after the house doors are opened. In the scenes of his later appearance, and resuscitation, he bursts on stage with explosive energy. Jordan Jones as Amos “Mr Cellophane” actually squawks in protest at being called “Andy.” Tristan Clemas plays Billy Flynn with a blend of charm and guile, swagger and self-interest. Roxie Hart is a big role and Becca Riches gives her a big performance, face, hands, and dancing legs, all in flow and in superb high animation,

Fidelity to Bob Fosse's choreography is shown off early. The company is clustered tightly together, side-facing to the audience. The heads turn snappily in unison to face us. They do the flick of the wrist that was Fosse's trademark. The young dancers do hand-stands and cart-wheels. The production a bit cheekily allows in some disco sequences, but it is cue for some spectacular high-speed disco dancing from Jordan Jones and Jay Boswell.

A directorial flourish includes the front of house team in character. The Castle Theatre's sombreness suits “Chicago.” The black-painted interior matches the black skirts and suits. The Cook County Gaol gloom is accentuated by low-level lighting in Joe Pinnegar's lighting design. There are contrasts in white. Three grown-up babies prance in towelled nappies. Billy Flynn sports a white rose in his lapel. Velma carries a mop of platinum blonde hair. Amos wears a pale-coloured cardigan. But otherwise the palette is as dark as Kander and Ebb's tale, where criminality and celebrity converge. The show is done on a split stage with a few steps to separate the levels. The staging is completed with a couple of screens and a few bentwood chairs.

The offstage company includes production managers Asha Miles Webster and Jessica Baker, floor manager Joseph Walker, production assistant Kai Collin. Photography and camera-work is by Awen Saunders-Goldman. Owen Herbert and Lee Thompson are assistant directors. Sound design is by Wojciech Peter Lebek and graphic design by Cian Toland, Imogen Morgan-Auckland and James McDonagh.

The work that has gone into this “Chicago” is immense. Only the company can truly know its true extent. But the pleasure it has given on its first night is palpable. Certainly they are in front of an audience that wishes them well. But an audience is an entity that responds in its own way. The voice of acclaim it gives is one that responds to a company that has given its all. The record of Ceredigion talent that has flooded out into professional life in the arts is a good one. There are names here who will be heard again in the world of musical theatre.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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