Chicago - 4 October 2003

I saw Chicago in 1998 and was surprised at how much I had forgotten about the show so much so that this felt as though I was seeing it for the first time. I came away with a completely different feeling towards the show as compared to the first visit where I enjoyed it but didn’t think I would be back again, now I would definitely consider a revisit.

The cast is currently headed by Frances Ruffelle as Roxie, Vanessa Leagh hicks as Velma, Paul Baker as Amos, Kevin Richardson as Billy Flynn and Anita Dobson as Mama Morton.

The show didn’t start with the expected bang and ‘All that Jazz’ whilst competently performed did seem a little subdued, lacking a little sharpness and Vanessa didn’t grab the audience initially. In contrast the rest of her performance was full of exuberance, character and boldness which more than made up for the odd start. She created a strong Velma and made an impact at all times on the stage whether the centre or reacting to what is going on. The spirit, emotions and annoyances of Velma could be seen in her face. She had an obviously good working relationship with everyone in the cast and what a mover !

Frances Ruffelle’s Roxie was a seemingly fragile, initially naïve girl but at the same time a quick learner in the ways of the prison. She has always been a performer who can convey so much in her face and that once more was apparent here, again whether she was the focus of the scene or an observer she was constantly engaging. Although not a natural dancer she performed all the dances well and with enthusiasm. She has a voice I love and here she performed all her songs with heart and passion. A fab performance by Frances as always.

You just want to take Paul Baker’s Amos and give him a big hug as he is so sweet in an innocently dumb way. Always several steps behind or away from the game in hand he had the audience’s sympathy in he palm of his hand for Mr Cellophane. Through the silence of his exit music his cheerful parting wave said it all. An absolutely charming performance

Kevin Richardson is a young Billy Flynn and although his start was a little static he soon came into his own and was suitably self centred, slick and smarmy. He has a good voice, a gentle tenor and carried the songs off nicely.

Anita Dobson was a very good Mama Morton, sang well, perhaps more of a soft touch than other Mamas but still working the system to her advantage.

Mention must be made of Richard Roe’s fabulous turn as 6 members of the jury including the blind man, the lady with the hat, the drunk, the ogler with feverously fidgety fingers eager to grab the backside of whichever lady drifts his way and the gormless foreman seemingly in awe of Billy. What a highlight to the scene. Also Paul Basleigh as Fred Caseley with his Wylie Coyote impression in the court scene - a wonderfully effective idea.

The company all performed with enthusiasm, precision and boundless energy. When not on the centre stage they sat around the edge and were continually engaged in the show. Numbers such as the Cell Block Tango are superbly slick and effective. .Nowhere in the West End will there be a more lively and enthusiastic orchestra who were a joy to watch and hear .

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