Skip to main content

Review of Chicago at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

It is wrong I know, but I always get a thrill of excitement when I hear that we have an understudy on. With the exception of trips to London, I rarely attend a theatre production with the sole intent of seeing a star. Indeed for the most part if that it a "star" of shows like Britain's Got Talent or The X-Factor, I am sadly rarely impressed. Yes that may feel like a snobby comment, however I much prefer my theatre performers to have more theatre credits than television appearances and certainly not just a list of talent shows they have appeared on.

However I have seriously digressed and the cause of this was the announcement at the start of my viewing of the touring production of Chicago that Lindsey Tierney would be playing the role of Roxie Hart instead of Emmerdale star and winner of ITV's Dancing On Ice, Hayley Tamaddon. Obviously I cannot comment on Tamaddon, but as understudy, Lindsey Tierney was one of the highlights of the show. Confident with a strong stage presence and a wonderfully clear and expressive voice. Clearly for me the star of the show despite being the understudy.

The other performers were quite a mix, with Sophie Carmen-Jones a quite wonderful Velma Kelly, portraying a devilishly minxy attitude and a confident, quality performance of the songs. Her Hot Honey Rag with Tierney is one of the show highlights. Less successful for me was Sam Bailey's Matron 'Mama' Morton, while she has an incredibly strong singing voice, able to insert huge power into the numbers including When You're Good To Mama, she unfortunately provides little character into the role. Resulting in a feeling that you are just watching a stroll on, deliver the number and leave.

I also have serious reservations about John Partridge's Billy Flynn. For much of his first half appearances, his performance seems much more Partridge than Flynn, egging the role up and playing to the audience more than the his role. It is only when he performs the definitely dazzling Razzle Dazzle in the second half, that I felt we were finally getting out moneys worth from the star. During this he showed everything of the showman that either he or the choreography didn't allow in the first half.

Other excellent moments from the show include Dann Kharsa putting a super amount of character into his role of The Jury. Flicking with a subtle costume charge or facial change into the various members. Another highlight in the interaction from the musical director Ben Atkinson, often involved in exchanges with the cast and an impressively wacky persona, helping bring life into the often ignored, but key role. I did also enjoy Neil Ditt as Amos Hart, who performs what was one of my favourite parts of the show with his Mister Cellophane.

The choreography from Ann Reinking feels at times slightly less impressive than you feel you deserve from a big show like Chicago. This is a talented ensemble we have here, but much of the time it all feels rather tiny in its ambition. Much of this though is from the frankly weird design decisions. The band area, a hulking monstrosity of a beast, takes up what appears to be nearly seventy percent of the stage, leaving a relatively shallow area for the cast to perform on. It is immediately evident from the opening number All That Jazz, where the cast are either bumping into one another or visibly stalling their movement to allow the others to move. There is also the rather weird side channels where the non performing cast sit on chairs. This would be fine, except that when other cast members walk through there, you actually see the other performers sometimes having to move their feet to let them pass. It all becomes incredibly strange, and is totally unnecessary.

So overall a real mixed bag, enjoyable but with so many annoying elements that jar from that enjoyment. A few really silly decisions have taken this from what could have been a really excellent show, to as it stands, one that is nothing more than a moderately entertaining diversion.

«««


Performance reviewed: Monday 23rd May, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

Chicago was on at the Royal & Derngate between Monday 23rd and Saturday 28th May, 2016 and continues its tour throughout 2016. Details can be found at http://chicagothemusical.com/uktour.php

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Cilla - The Musical at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I have to start with a confession dear reader, what I know about Cilla Black can pretty much be written on the back of the Derngate ticket that I clutched on entering the theatre (and that allows for the advert on the back). I have heard a couple of her tunes of course (more than once) and confess, once again, that I generally didn't like what I heard. I think it's clear that with her natural raw form and voice, "a diamond in the rough" as Brian Epstein, her eventual manager describes her, she a performer that you either love or generally, not hate as such, but perhaps just dislike. I fall in the latter. Curiously as I a forty-year-old, I also don't even fall into the Cilla of hit television either, being a BBC viewing family, I never saw her on TV much when I was growing up.

So, coming almost totally fresh to the world of Cilla, it was a little comforting that for the first act, much of the world of Cilla - The Musical revolves not just around star building Cil…

Review of Woman In Mind by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I like Alan Ayckbourn, I may only have seen a few of his vast array of plays previously, but all have been a delight, often crazy yes, but constantly funny, and especially in the second act spiralling often into just on the very edge of believable nonsense. With Woman In Mind, acknowledged by many as one of his finest works, my own personal jury is very much out on whether I liked it or not.
What was very good, mostly, however, were the performances, most especially the two that we are introduced to at the very beginning. The prostrate Susan (Nicola Osborne), with sinisterly lurking rake alongside her, and the bag struggling doctor, Bill (John Myhill).
Nicola Osborne has the unenviable task in this play of never leaving the stage, a feat in itself. Add to this the constant weaving of the character's world (more on this later), and you have a role featuring some significant challenge, one that Osborne ably surmounts. I once described Osborne as a "safe pair of hands" in …

Press launch of Sting's The Last Ship at Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton

On Friday 16th February 2018, I attended the official press launch of The Last Ship. In attendance were the writer of the show, Sting, and cast members for the 2018 UK tour Richard Fleeshman, Charlie Hardwick and Joe McGann, with musical support from Rob Mathes.

During the event, opened entertainingly by producer Karl Sydow, Sting and the cast members performed seven of the songs from the show: The Last Ship (Sting), Dead Man's Boots (Sting and Fleeshman), Sail Away (Hardwick), The Night the Pugilist Learned to Dance (Fleeshman), What Say You Meg? (Fleeshman) and What Have You Got? (Sting and cast).

Each of these songs showed us a great background to the evocative tale that The Last Ship tells, of a community under attack as its crucial shipbuilding industry begins to fail. The performers and Sting himself delivered the songs with huge passion, despite, as Sting himself commented, the earnestness of the hour, with the event beginning at 10 am.

The Last Ship was initially inspired …