Chicago razzle-dazzling

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Chicago – a musical synonymous with glitz, glamour and grit. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, where corruption abounds, the musical is a piece of satire tackling the idea of abuse in the justice system and exploring the issue of idolizing famous felons. Director Jack Sain reinterprets the script to create a phenomenal show that is a swingin’ and singin’ extravaganza fully meriting its sell-out status.

It’s hard to know where to start with a musical in which so much is great. Although at times the live band swells slightly too much and drowns out the singing, it’s not enough to detract from the fact that, the leads all deliver excellent, pitch perfect performances. Classics like ‘The Cell Block Tango’ do not disappoint: the solos are superb and complement one another. Combined with the lighting, you are instantly transported to a fantastic limbo between jail and stage – that’s showbiz, kid.

One of the highlights of the show is Luke Rollason, playing Amos, whose rendition of Mister Cellophane is enough to warrant a scram on the last remaining tickets. His nuanced wavering between fury and polite despair makes Amos, the only honest guy, the true victim of the play, and Rollason fully exploits his character’s tragi-comic status to show the devaluation of truth and genuine emotion. Amos stands in stark contrast to the sleazy Billy Flynn, played by Andy Laithwaite, and the humour generated by such a marked difference is easily on par with that of the 2002 film version.

It’s not just aurally that the show is excellent, but visually too. The costuming is simply stunning, with a number of nifty changes and sequinned glamour galore that leaves you unable to work out what is ‘real’ and what is ‘showbiz’ – which is, of course, the entire point of the show. The varied dancing shows an enormous repertoire of skills within the cast, and the choreography itself is slick, if sometimes a little shaky at the corners. The show makes excellent use of the space of the O’Reilly, working on several levels; the simple set helps it keep its fast pace, as it effortlessly transforms from prison to court room by dint of a simple furniture shift.

Chicago is a must-see this Michaelmas. It’d be criminal not to go.

Chicago is showing at the Keble O’Reilly until Saturday; tickets are left for Thursday matinée only.