By Amy Ellis Winter
On Monday 18th of July, New Theatre Oxford kindly invited me to attend the opening and press night of the jazz musical ‘Chicago as they head into the final two weeks of their UK tour. Upon arrival, we were escorted down the red carpet (a great photo opportunity) to the piano bar, adorned with ‘Chicago’ inspired décor, where we were treated to glasses of Prosecco and elderflower alongside ‘Chicago’ themed cupcakes. There was even a height marker and ‘Cook County Jail’ signs where you could have your mugshot taken!
Prior to the show, I had grown up listening to the soundtrack of ‘Chicago’ and I was familiar with the plot, however I had never seen it performed live so I was extremely excited to experience the intense atmosphere and energy that a live production of Chicago would bring. ‘Chicago,’ inspired by a true story, follows the journey of two women (Roxie and Velma) who find themselves on death-row after murdering their husbands. Both share a hunger for fame and to be adored by the public for their musical talent and beauty, thus they develop a rivalry with each other for the spotlight in the jail’s cabaret. Coronation Street actress Faye Brookes led the plot with her Roxie however Djalenga Scott and Jamie Baughan’sVelma and Amos stole the show with their impeccable comedic timing and Velma and the girls’ incredible rendition of ‘Cell Block Tango.’ ‘Chicago’ remains the longest-running American musical in Broadway history, thus my expectations were incredibly high, and I was not disappointed.
Despite being an avid musical fanatic, having attended sothroughout my life, I’m always looking for something distinctive and that will separate one from another. Thus, I was amazed by the way in which the cast made vertical used of the stage, performing somewhat risky acrobatic tricks and dance moves on ladders running up the theatre walls. The band not only appeared on stage, as opposed to hidden in the orchestra pit, but the conductor Andrew Hilton was practically an actor himself as he interacted with the cast and offered humorous commentary on the situations that they found themselves in. Furthermore, the set design was fantastic. The cabaret aesthetic and presentation of the women as showgirls left you almost forgetting their position as murderesses on death-row due to the heavily glamourised performances which made this musical fantastically dark and one I would watch again in a heartbeat.
Attending the opening and press night of ‘Chicago’ was an incredible experience and I’d love to be able to do it all over again. ‘Chicago’ UK is on tour until July 30th, and it is not one to be missed so make sure you grab tickets! To check out the upcoming shows taking place at New Theatre, Oxford, click this link: https://www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-theatre-oxford/