'Chicago The Musical' high-kicked off last week at the Elizabeth Sneddon theatre. It was possibly one of the most anticipated opening nights in Durban theatre history.
In fact audience member Chris Sutton posted on Facebook that it was “so taut with anticipation that even the bloke telling the audience to switch off their phones got rapturous applause”.
And the show lived up to all expectations.
The bar for any KickstArt Theatre production is high to begin with – since its inception co-directors Steven Stead and Greg King have walked off with a crate of local and national awards. Their nationwide stagings of Cabaret and Sweeny Todd have made Stead and King local heroes, symbols of what Durban can do when given half a chance.
The Durban version of the 1975 Broadway show is sexy, sassy and satirical. The 16-strong cast pumps with an unrelenting energy that never flags – had it done so, the nine-piece band directed by Evan Roberts would have deservedly stolen the show.
In fact, the show revolved around the band that was placed centre stage, with the action taking place before and to the sides of it.
The set design is a clever use of a limited space. Spare and sophisticated, it pays tribute to the Vaudeville theatres of the time.
For a show written in the 70’s and based in the roaring twenties – almost 100 years ago – it is surprisingly on point in the 21st century. Loosely based on a true story, Chicago celebrates the cult of celebrity, the manipulation of the press, crime as popular entertainment, and the moral vacuum in society.
Jessica Sole as Roxie Hart, the self-centred chorus girl who shoots her lover in a fit of peeve, is entrancing. She creates a naïve, childlike and manipulative character who manages to be sympathetic and irritating at the same time – and she she’ll blow you away with her rendition of Roxie.
Kudos too, to a sleazy, smart-assed Billy Flynn, played to perfection by Jason Ralph; to Bryan Hiles as Roxie’s hapless, soft-hearted husband Amos who gets more “ag shames” from the audience than a Youtube puppy video; and to Ann-Marie Clulow for the splits. (Any more would necessitate a spoiler alert.)
It will be interesting to see how KickstArt manage to top this one.