15-20 February 2016
Reviewed by Trevor Jay
It was great to visit the New Theatre in Oxford again. It is such a friendly and welcoming place. There is a great buzz around the entrance, with staff both helpful to infrequent visitors, whilst taking the time to acknowledge their regulars. A great start to a wonderfully entertaining evening provided by a talented, professional cast.
Chicago the Musical is based on real life events in the roaring 20s. It involves a nightclub singer, Roxie Hart, who shoots her lover and the fight to save herself and double-murderess Velma Kelly from Death Row.
The action was set around the band who occupied a multi storey “bandstand” that filled most of the stage. I am delighted to say that the orchestra more than lived up to their prime location. The actors sat to the sides of the bandstand and appeared from all parts of it to perform their dramatic set piece dances at the front of the stage. From the first dance, I was amazed by the perfect timing and synchronisation of the ensemble and kept on mentioning to my wife how badly I would fare!
The second half started with the orchestra performing their own showpiece, which was in fact my highlight. All the instruments had their own solos, but they didn’t just play. Have you ever seen a tuba player dance with and play his instrument at the same time?
Only mentioning the lead actors at this stage just goes to show how good the whole ensemble was. Whilst there was a big cheer on Sam Bailey’s first appearance, none of the leads outshone the rest of the cast. They were all great, with Neil Ditt really playing up to the role of the downtrodden Amos – his request for his own exit music and resigned acceptance when he had to walk off in silence was brilliant.
All in all it was a fun, entertaining night, but this was mostly due to the overall excellence of the ensemble and orchestra, rather than any outstanding lead performances. The unusual step of having the orchestra as the centrepiece was a great success, as it emphasised one of the strongest parts of the show.
Tickets cost from £15 to £44.50 (plus £4 transaction fee).
Chicago the Musical is at the New Theatre in Oxford until 20 February 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 3020.
New Theatre Oxford, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AG | 0844 871 3020