CHICAGO is a musical vaudeville which has entertained audiences worldwide since opening on Broadway in 1975. Ballarat Light Opera Company’s interpretation of the production, currently on show at Her Majesty’s Theatre, provides us with a glimpse as to why it is regarded as one of the world’s most popular musicals.
Chicago is one of my all-time favourites. I love the glitz and glam, the music and choreography, the story and the social commentary that the production offers. It follows the story of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two merry murderesses of the Cook Country Jail who have been jailed for murder.
Having seen the musical on-stage and on the silver screen, I attended BLOC’s opening night with high expectations, excited to see how our local community theatre company would stage such an ambitious show.
Although there were many elements worthy of merit, there were also areas in need of some polishing.
The music is of course Chicago’s forte and with a 1920s jazz-inspired score, it’s hard to go wrong in this regard. The band – albeit small in number when considering the task at hand – did a great job delivering.
The lighting was well-done throughout the show, and the set was just right, making great use of the stage space.
The choreography – by Ballarat newcomer Kat Armati – was impressive but lacked in its delivery at times and the dancing occasionally felt a little flat. The opening number, All That Jazz, which is supposed to set the scene for high-energy musical punctuated with the vocal prowess of principal Velma Kelly (played by local Vanessa Stephenson), was underwhelming. The cast didn’t put enough oomph in the dancing or singing, which was a shame seeing this was our introduction to the show.
All the cast members however, including Leah Delaland (Roxie Hart), Stewart Greedy (Billy Flynn), and Brenda Clarke (Matron Mama Morton) did perform their roles with the sass and style required of them, but it was Ballarat newbie Stephen Armati who was the standout.
Ironically, his character Amos Hart goes unnoticed throughout the whole story, but for the audience, he was the most noticed.
His solo Mr Cellophane was exactly what I had anticipated. It was superb in its delivery, both vocally and theatrically, and his hitting of that all-important end-note had the audience absorbed.
Towards the end of Act One and throughout Act Two, it became clear that the cast members had loosened up, and we started to see the elements of the production come to life in all their glory.
BLOC’s staging of Chicago definitely showed promise. It had all the elements to make for a great production. All that was needed was for the cast to fully immerse themselves in their characters and harness the energy required for such a production.