Review - Savoyards' Chicago: vibrant, colourful and cheeky
Joanna Nash as Velma, Joshua Moore as Bill and Heidi Enchelmaier as Roxie
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed by Sherryl-Lee Secomb
Musical Director Benjamin Tubb-Hearne
Choreographer Desney Toia-Sinapati
Presented by Savoyards
Iona Performing Arts Centre
85 North Road,
Lindum, QLD 4178
Season: 29 September to 13 October. Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (07) 3893 4321.
Chicago is set in the mid-1920s and is a story of love, betrayal, intrigue, and murder. The two leading ladies, Velma Kelly, a vaudeville actress, and Roxie Hart, a chorus girl, have both been accused of murder and are put in prison. The two connive and double deal their way into the press headlines, through their lawyer, Billy Flynn, to get public attention and sympathy, prior to trial to ensure a favourable verdict.
The show was presented as a series of ‘acts’ with a ringmaster or the musical director announcing each scene — as Billy classically says “it (the justice system) is a three-ring circus”. The audience were also treated to three circus acts prior to the commencement of the show – a flame stick whirler, a plate twirler and an acrobatic swirler on ribbons suspended over the stage.
Roxie Hart was played by Heidi Enchelmaier, who was fabulous. She superbly took the audience on a roller coaster ride of love/hate/empathy for her character, as she was a bit of a villain, with a dash of sweetness. Enchelmaier’s voice was perfectly suited for the role and her wardrobe/costume changes were extensive.
Velma Kelly was played by Joanna Nash, who was equally as fabulous. Her character was portrayed as being a little bit tougher, but she was vulnerable underneath as depicted by her solo I Can’t Do It Alone. Kelly’s voice is pure jazz and powerful. In the penultimate number, the duet Nowadays was a great blend of the two vocalists. Velma’s costume changes were not nearly as many. She was dressed in her little black ensemble for most of the show.
Billy Flynn was played by Joshua Moore, who had just the right amount of lawyer sleaze. His two solos All I Care About and Razzle Dazzle showed off his strong voice.
The other characters fleshing out the co-leads were Mama Morton, the prison supervisor, (Danika Saal), Amos Hart, Roxie’s husband (Rod Jones) and Mary Sunshine, Chicago socialite reporter (Kyle Fenwick). I have to say that I simply loved Jones’ voice when he did Mr Cellophane, going from meek and mild to a tremendous volume at the end of the song.
The choreography, designed by Desney Toia-Sinapati, was superb, and showed off the talented leading ladies and ensemble – with tap, jazz and Charleston numbers. I particularly liked the Cell Block Tango where each murderess explains the reason why she was in prison and there was a male partner/dancer taking the part of their unfortunate other halves. Very sexy and powerful at the same time.
For the most part, the costumes for the ladies were black, cheeky pieces, virtually undergarments – bustiers, short skirts or tight shorts, stockings (as you would expect to see in vaudeville) with sparkly or gold trimmings – each dancer had a different pattern on the bustier. When they weren’t so skimpily dressed, the dresses were all typical 1920s streetwear or flapper-style. The men wore mostly black pants, white shirts with suspenders or glittery vests and black hats. The hair/wigs were all styled in the era. There was a large ensemble on stage, so this was a massive undertaking for the costume team led by Kim Heslewood (costume design) and Lynne Swain (hair & wig design). I really liked Velma’s and Roxie’s flapper dresses at the end.
The stage was set in art deco with the orchestra being nestled on a platform above the stage in what resembled the sides of an amusement park swing boat. In front of this, at the same level, was a walkway with bannister railings, the width of the stage. Stairs at either end came around to lead down to the next level in the centre, which in turn stepped down to the stage proper. Lighting effects of revolving star patterns enhanced the painted features. Props were minimalistic with chairs being used where required and an old-fashioned radio microphone and radio. The lighting designed by Allan Nutley, really brought the stage alive, with different effects and spotlights for the various numbers. However, at times the leads’ faces were in shadow, particularly at the higher parts of the stage, but that may have been due to where I was seated.
The jazz orchestra led by Musical Director, Benjamin Tubb-Hearne, belted out the tunes with finesse, — just loved the trumpet and trombones.
I really liked this musical for its vibrancy, colourfulness, cheekiness and humour, as it takes a swipe at the marketing circus that rallies the press on to the side of villains and turns them into celebrities. The Director, Sherryl-Lee Secomb, can be justifiably proud of the cast and crew.