Thursday, 5 December 2013


Curve Theatre, Leicester


Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed by Paul Kerryson

Sandra Marvin and Verity Rushworth

Bob Fosse co wrote the book of Chicago. He also famously inspired the show’s choreography, which could be found on tour in the UK even up until last year. But not any more. That famously coquettish and provocative sexuality has been laid to rest and there’s a new dance style in the Windy City. Like an impetuous child, young British choreographer Drew McOnie has taken some of Broadway’s biggest numbers and re-imagined their steamy suggestiveness into a style that is entirely 21st century.

Paul Kerryson directs on the sleek modern vastness of the Curve’s main auditorium. It’s a big (and possibly expensive) space to fill, sometimes too big and if occasionally the intimacy of a bedroom scene or a lawyer's office seems dwarfed, one does not have to wait long until McOnie’s routines fill the stage. The show is such that one’s eyes are often drawn to the fascinating and complex company dance work rather than the singing lead.

The murderous partners in crime, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, are played by the accomplished Verity Rushworth and Gemma Sutton respectively. Both women are vocally stunning, with Rushworth flashing occasional glimpses of breathaking acrobatic talent. Not quite the finished article yet, their poor synchronisation in the eleven o’clock number Nowadays is a distraction. Nothing though that can't be mended with a spot of drilled rehearsal and a few days settling into the run.

Kerryson is at his best when exploiting the bleak humanity of Kander and Ebb’s caustic wit. The comic pathos of Amos Hart’s Mister Cellophane is a brilliant turn from Matthew Barrow, whilst the sardonic irony of Sandra Marvin’s Mama Morton singing Class with Rushworth is another gem. Credit too to Marvin’s When Your’re Good To Mama. Her Curve-filling curves deliver a thrilling sound and to quote her signature song, she sure deserves a lot of tat for what she’s got to give.

David Leonard is Billy Flynn. He does everything just fine, but somehow there’s a touch of star quality pizazz that’s lacking. Hopefully that too will develop into the run. Notably brilliant amongst the company are Adam Bailey’s Mary Sunshine and Zizi Strallen’s Mona along with her other ensemble responsibilities. One suspects that her understudy Velma will be very watchable too.

The star of the show however is undoubtedly McOnie’s dance work, enhanced by takis’ androgynously metro-sexual costumes. In Razzle Dazzle, when Flynn sings of the court room being a three-ring circus, McOnie sculpts his company, using their limbs together with ropes and harnesses to create a writhing mass of syncopated beauty. Moulding bodies into art forms, in time to the brassy rhythms of Ben Atkinson’s immaculately performing seven piece band, his images are breathtaking. See this show if for no other reason than to glimpse the future of showtune choreography.

Curve’s Chicago is a stylish Xmas offering to a city that has become accustomed to festive excellence from Kerryson and his company. Its a thrilling show and if you have a passion for innovative musical theatre, then its simply unmissable!

Chicago runs to 18th January 2014. To book tickets, click here

To read my interview with director Paul Kerryson, click here

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