Michaelmas has sped by for most of us, but for the Fools & Kings team this will be the end of a long string of demanding rehearsals (which began three weeks before term). Watching one of these rehearsals, we certainly felt a sense of the energy of this fun and engaging piece – brought to life by a talented and dedicated cast and impressively professional direction.
Chicago has no doubt been done a lot; perhaps even overdone – but, when it’s done well, the reason for its enduring popularity is abundantly clear. Director Jack Sain feels he’s bringing something new to the musical, shifting the focus to its satirical side with bold, vaudevillian colours replacing the dim and black aesthetic popularised by Broadway, the West End, and Rob Marshall’s film version. This adaptation may not be quite as rebellious as it claims (in the posters for the show you will see an appealing but fairly familiar image) but the effort and intent to contribute something different is certainly there, and will hopefully come across in the final show.
What we found most interesting in the preview was the mention of a feminist interpretation. This is a totally female-driven production, and the team ought to be commended for their effort to put on a show with plenty of interesting female parts. We can only hope that it’ll go some way to dealing with the problem actresses in Oxford have to face all too often: the majority of those who audition are women, while the majority of parts on offer are for men.
Sain certainly has a vision and a standard which he demands of his cast, and he works well with choreographer Katherine Skingsley. Her prescriptions are challenging and ambitious, and there is a great balance between playfulness and drive. The singing was absolutely top notch, with Velma’s (Josie Richardson) and Matron “Mama” Morton’s (Florence Brady) rendition of ‘Class’ a particular highlight. Roxie – played by Georgina Hellier – is another one to watch. Spending two hours watching Fools & Kings’ adaptation of the much-loved musical Chicago will no doubt be a wonderful way to spend a chilly sixth week evening: we urge everyone to get a ticket for what’s set to be one of the hottest shows this term.
Chicago is showing in the Keble O’Reilly theatre in 6th week, from the 20th-23rd November. Tickets £10/8.50 and available here.