All That Jazz

🌟 Chicago has just been announced as the latest show returning to London’s West End and I am SO HAPPY about it! To celebrate, this is a little reminiscing about the 2016 tour version – one of my all time top picks. 🌟

As one of Fosse’s most well known and well loved musicals, a night watching the national tour of Chicago was bound to be unforgettable. Iconic choreography combined with one of the catchiest scores in the musical theatre back catalogue immediately raises the expectations of the audience, but as the cast exploded onto the scene in the irrefutable opening it was clear the performance was going to be a sure fire hit.

Whilst the action of the plot excelled, for me the best (and unexpected) component was the placement of orchestra on centre stage. These indispensable parts of a musical are so often hidden away and under appreciated, but character interaction and a particularly fabulous entr’acte ensured this band remained at the front of the action.

come on babe, we’re gonna paint the town

Sophie Carmen Jones brought her A game as Velma, the sassy singer jailed for the double murder of her husband and sister. ‘All That Jazz’ remains a timeless showstopper, with the ensemble revelling in the Fosse – inspired choreography, but the lesser known ‘Can You Imagine’ provided a brilliant platform for Carmen Jones’ effortless voice (and some serious ladder skills). ‘I Can’t Do It Alone’ similarly provided a showcase of her dance ability, high kicks swinging with ease and the characterisation that drives the audience’s love of Velma seen in bucketloads.

Of the three ‘celebrity’ castings Hayley Tamaddon was clearly the strongest, her portrayal of Roxie strong, confident and excelling in solo numbers such as the ever-catchy ‘Me and My Baby’. Jessie Wallace competently filled the role of Mama Morton, but lacked the powerhouse vocals necessary to excel. John Partridge as Billy Flynn, on the other hand, was a disappointment. The audience needs to be taken on the same journey as Roxie in regards to Flynn, from imagined nice guy to the ruthless courtroom circus master. Partridge’s portrayal was one dimensional, offering the audience little to like about the character, and as some of my fellow theatre goers noticed even appeared drunk throughout a couple songs.

give ’em the old razzle dazzle

As a touring production the set was bound to be minimal, but the clever use of the orchestra as the backdrop and a few necessary chairs and prison bars were more than enough alongside the brilliance of the performance as a whole. Typical Fosse inspired costumes and makeup completed production’s overall sparkle.

Slick, stylish and full of razzle dazzle!

Shall We Dance?

An American in Paris, 2nd January 2018.

An American in Paris had been on my theatre wishlist since it first transferred to London’s West End, but it wasn’t until the closing performances were announced that I finally got round to booking tickets (in somewhat of a panic).

Very briefly, the story follows a dancer, Lise, and the three men who are in love with her. Based heavily around dance, as well as a beautiful Gershwin score, An American in Paris has been updated from the 1951 film to incorporate the effect of the recently ended Second World War upon Paris, and the healing nature of music, dance and love.

The Dominion Theatre in London is a big space to fill, and a single character on stage with a piano is an unusual start for a big budget show. As the stage transformed into post-war Paris, however, all preconceptions melted away. I am ashamed to say I was woefully lacking in knowledge as to the style of the show, other than the leads being plucked from highly esteemed ballet companies, and was swept away by how the variety of dance genres aided the narrative. The opening scene, depicting the poverty and desperation of war juxtaposed with the hope of a new beginning, was a particular highlight.

Shall we give in to despair
Or shall we dance with never a care?

An interruption in the first half saw Leanne Cope, who originated the role of Lise, taken ill and replaced by Kristen McGarrity. After an understandably wobbly first few bars of ‘The Man I Love’, McGarrity naturally fell into the part and provided a graceful, poignant take on the character. Ashley Day’s interpretation of Jerry Mulligan, whilst arrogant, was carefully built to reveal layers of a personality haunted by war and confused by the love seemingly barred to him. For me, however, the standout performance came from Zoë Rainey’s portrayal of Milo Davenport, the wealthy American benefactor of both Jerry and the ballet. An assured characterisation and beautifully rich voice combined to bring moments of comedy and emotion in a true musical theatre star performance.

🌟 Personal Highlight 🌟

I Got Rhythm is my favourite of the Gershwin songbook and the staging for the number certainly didn’t disappoint (me at least). A raucous cafe scene interrupted by a power cut, and the characters’ fear bred by the recently finished war, movingly noted the setting without being obviously signposted to the audience. The inclusion of a power-creating bicycle and a toe tapping percussive break served to make this one of the biggest and best numbers in the show.

A s’wonderful start to the new year.

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