Thursday 29 September 2016

Chicago at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin review: 'A great night out'

Katy Hayes

Published 17/05/2016 | 15:33

Chicago at Bord Gais Energy Theatre
Chicago at Bord Gais Energy Theatre

As the audience enters there is a black chair and a bowler hat on stage, lit with a narrow spotlight. It could be the set of a Beckett play. But it’s not.

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It is 1920s Chicago, and Roxie shoots her lover and gets banged up in jail with a bunch of other men killers. In case you think these are stereotypical female victims with justifiable homicide excuses, they’re not. The number He had it Coming makes it clear that this is a bunch of very bad girls.

Roxie hires a celebrity lawyer. She aims not only to be acquitted, but also to use her newfound notoriety and fame to launch a career as a cabaret star. Chicago is on the surface a knockabout musical romp, full of jubilant amorality and defense of the indefensible, but at heart it’s all about the cult of celebrity.

The ten piece Jazz orchestra is arranged on a black wedge shaped ramp, and the company is constantly on the stage, seated to the sides. The format of the show is partly that of variety; scenes are introduced as if they are acts, but the narrative has a strong drive also.

Choreography based on Bob Fosse’s original work is sexy, athletic and quirky, but utterly disciplined. William Ivey Long’s costumes feature black leather and net, as well as the occasional bit of glitter, occupying the soft end of the S&M register. There is much black on the stage, but Ken Billington’s lighting creates vibrant moments of intense colour and sparkle.

Hayley Tamaddon makes a fantastic Roxie, her petite form displaces air, her dancing superb, singing and acting top-notch. Her ability to convey minxy badness is truly good. Amos the husband is a total doormat and his number Mister Cellophane, a lament for his invisibility, hits the spot; rarely does an audience love a wimp, but Neil Ditt’s lovable deject wins them over.

The orchestra is foregrounded. Several numbers feature them significantly in the action as they ramp up the mood. The Maestro conducts the musicians and the cast conducts the audience, who respond with glee. A great night out.

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