PADOS Theatre Group
Director: Mark Rosenthal
Musical Director: Matt Corrigan
Choreographer: Helen Wilkinson
Chicago is a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery - all those things we hold near and dear to our heart. It is jurisprudence-as-showbusiness and trial-by-publicity.
It is now one of musical theatres iconic shows. It is encapsulated in the 1996 revival, a dark, minimalism presentation, and with choreography in the Bob Fosse style. This production by PADOS was imaginatively realised, with a tip of the hat to the Walter Bobbie award winning concept.
Kander and Ebb’s jazz-age sexy story of two murderesses does not need elaborate stage settings. The storytelling and the music interpretation are enough allowing the audience’s imagination to do the rest. To give the cast maximum playing space the design team created a split-level set accessed by two staircases. There were extra pieces for the cellblock, and a circular dais which gave added depth to scenes. The lighting and sound were the final link in this creative presentation.
This production depicted a seedy burlesque show, low vaudeville, that was both harsh and cruel. As it is explained in the show, “Chicago is a town were murder is a form of entertainment”. Every element of vaudeville came together by the direction which captured the showbiz Razzle Dazzle characterisations. The choreography was highly inventive for a company of mixed abilities. Everyone on stage looked so good with their angled bodies and hip thrusts: they delivered a “first rate circus”. The element that brings it all together is the music. Every number was an extension of dialogue meaning that it was storytelling to music played by a first-rate band.
The casting was so strong. All the characters were equal in their interpretations as each, in turn, stepped into the limelight. The players are introduced by a different master of ceremonies all adding to the vaudeville setting. We were told, “Not everything is at it seems” and (Little) Mary Sunshine, the reporter, was played by a man, Krissy Friday. Krissy mimicked the operetta style singing to perfection. Mr Cellophane is the only character who loses ultimately and doesn’t even get any play-off music. Tim Platt gave his own inspired rendering of Roxie’s hapless, pained husband.
The prisoners of Cook County Jail were all individual characters. The atmosphere of the jail was highlighted in the “Cellblock Tango”. Keeping a watchful eye, and making sure she is rewarded for looking after her “family”, is Mamma Morton. Alison Foy-Thackwell was animated and believable as the jail den-mother. Legal Mr Fix-it is Billy Flynn, who will take on any case as long there is money it for him. As the suave, manipulative lawyer, Simon Fletcher gave the performance of the evening. Flynn’s clients are the murdering twosome, Roxie, the self-defence killer, and Velma, the headline seeking murderess. Roxie who has a dream of treading the boards was expressively portrayed by Izzi Feld who embodied the character. Her sister-in-crime, the tough Velma Kelly, was played by Katherine Reynolds. Katherine took on the persona of the sarcastic, antagonistic showbiz entertainer/murderer. The feuding femme fatales kept their headlines going with a double act and they did “paint the town”.