I’ve just come back from seeing the all-new production of Chicago, which has literally just re-opened at the West End’s Garrick Theatre.
First off, let’s get out-of-the-way the fact that I am a MASSIVE Ugly Betty / America Ferrera fan! If I could have gotten away with it, I would have been sat in the audience with a bright poncho, thick glasses and monobrow, possibly with my fellow sisters from the ‘hood of the travelling pants! hehe. Alas to say, my pal Paul strictly forbade me to arrive in this fashion, MUCH to my intense disappointment (hehe!). I do like, however, that Ugly Betty finishes off in Trafalgar Square, and the next place America Ferrera turns up, is in the Garrick, literally 30 seconds up the road – nice bit of roundness there hehe!
Anyway, I have digressed enough – you’ve come to read a review, not help me set up a new America Ferrera fan-site, right? 😛
My history with the musical Chicago has always been a very chequered one. Whilst I love the story, score and most things about it (and it is not the longest running American musical in the World without reason!), I absolutely loathed the Cambridge Theatre staging, which I felt was allowed to become incredibly tatty, tired, lazy and as far away from sexy as a toothless ol’ granny sucking noisily on a boiled sweet, whilst playing with her chin hair. I feared that what the Cambridge production ultimately became may have done the brand a lot of damage, if I am honest, and I, like most of the West End community, was somewhat relieved to hear that it was closing, and perhaps a little dismayed when we learnt that it was to re-open so quickly again at the Garrick. I, for one though, started to become much more intrigued once again once I saw (very welcome) efforts to kick-start and completely reinvent the production, and therefore, it was with a completely open mind that I came to see the preview performance this evening.
All that I can say is COR! This is a trillion times better than before, and the production definitely now comes up to the West End standard, and all that jazz babbeh!! 😀
As the show itself says, everyone LOVES a reformed sinner! 😉
With the Garrick, comes a lot more stage space, and this clearly shows – there seemed to be a lot more floor-work than previous, more room to project, and the surroundings of the Garrick really lifted the quality of the production on the stage (perhaps it was the Cambridge Theatre that I wasn’t a fan of previously). This time the dancers absolutely oozed sex appeal, and the band were bang tidy, and smokin’ hawt!
What you’re getting with this new production is in fact the very same interpretation as was previously at the Cambridge Theatre, however at the Garrick you are now getting a far sexier, polished and superior show, and I totally commend the production for what it now is – absolutely fantastic!
In terms of casting, the producers seem to have successfully chopped out all of the deadwood from the previous production, retaining a few gems (such as James Doherty as Amos – whose portrayal of Amos remains the only incarnation of the character that I can bear; top credit to how fab I think James Doherty is!), and introducing/re-introducing other fine talent such as Jasna Ivir as Matron Mama Morton (my favourite Morton yet!), Darius Campbell as Billy Flynn, the sensational Amra-Faye Wright as Velma Kelly (a Broadway leading lady no less!), and of course, dear ol’ America Ferrera as Roxie Hart! 😀
A lot of people are sure to be here to see what the verdict is on the gorgeous America, and I have to tell you, she is very competent and charming in the role. What she lacks in ferocity, she more than makes up for in ‘cutesy’… it was nice, for once, to have a Roxie that you, and just like the press in the show, could actually fall for, and I felt that she contrasted nicely against Amra-Faye Wright’s deliciously blunt Velma.
Official pictures of America on stage as Roxy can be seen here, incidentally.
After the show, we stayed around to do stage door, which was absolutely MANIC and swamped with professional photographers, who should really be ashamed of themselves for pushing genuine fans (and kids) out of the way to snap a picture. I was one of the first to get an autograph with America and said a few words, however it was a bit of a circus right from the start and I didn’t want to intrude, particularly as America clearly needed a bit of space owing to the frenzy! Amra-Faye Wright was also very kind in signing my programme!
There was also something of a press picture which I may inadvertently be standing in the back of… so keep your eyes out on musical theatre sites, publications and national media eh?! heh! Let me know if I’m spotted, please?! I kinda hope not, as I look an absolute fright, but at the same time, yaaaay, picture with America! haha! 😉
On his way out, my colleague Louise rather brazenly asked (a surprisingly reeeeeally tall!) Darius why he had gone from Darius Danesh to Darius Campbell… turns out he was DC all along! hehe. Darius, incidentally, is fab in this production, and it seems unfortunate that his ‘hit me baby one more time’ rap-sheet still seems to follow him, especially as he has proven himself to theatre-goers to be more than worthy in previous productions!
Also of note was that I still seem to be word-perfect on the script and songs, ha! *epic geek face!* I am guaranteed to be singing the songs for weeks now!
If you’re considering seeing this show, then I would heartily recommend it, and I would also recommend it over many other shows currently playing in the West End at the moment. It’s a great night out, that you’re bound to enjoy, and if, like me, you’ve seen it go round the block a few times, it’s well worth checking it out again, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Chicago is currently playing at the Garrick Theatre, London, and is booking until 26 January 2013. America Ferrera is scheduled to be with the production until 31st December 2011. The show duration is 2 hours 30 minutes, with one 15 minute interval. More information about the show can be found on the official production website.