Review for KickstArt’s Chicago by Chris Sutton

Last night’s full house was so taut with anticipation that even the bloke telling the audience to switch off their phones got rapturous applause!
The KickstArt team, led by producer Steven Stead, have stretched themselves yet further with an absolutely fantastic stage version of this darling of Broadway.
A permanent set houses the 9 piece band led by Evan Roberts. Scene and set changes happen in front of and above this. As music dominates the performance I think it fitting that the set was designed around the band. Don’t take your seat late after interval because trumpeter, Siyanda Zulu, sets the band on fire before the cast takes the stage for the 2nd half.
A stand out of Greg King’s talent as set designer was the opening scene to the song ‘Cellblock Tango’ which stages the vampish murderesses manipulating the prison bars like strands of elastic.
Bryan Hiles is excellent as the hapless husband of Roxie, drawing laughs rather than tears from a sympathetic audience.
Previously cast as the wholesome baker’s wife in “Into the Woods” and Princess Fiona in “Shrek”, Jessica Sole puts her heart and soul into the portrayal of the narcissistic Roxie. Whilst she is less ‘gritty’ than fellow feloness Velma, she makes the part her own with pouts, eye flashes and fits of cruel rage.
Lawyer Billy Flynn played by Jason Ralph (may be familiar from the Durban run of KickstArt’s Sweeney Todd) is right on point as the courtroom manipulator. He almost meets his match when he takes on the defence of Roxie but leaves the stage successful in defending her and reminds the audience why court journalist Maurine Watkins first wrote the play in murderous 1920’s Chicago.
Whilst the production stays true to the theme of the play, which ridicules the legal system in 1920’s Chicago, and even though the combined amount of cloth used to make the saucier outfits would be insufficient to make a storm jib for an optimist, the production team make it fun rather than tacky.
With the actresses often displaying more breasts, legs and thighs than a KFC advert, those of you with dicky tickers will be well advised to remember you heart pills.
Stead throws a few surprises into the mix; watch out for Mary Sunshine’s transformation at the end of the court scene.
The show ended with the audience simply bursting to jump to their feet to reward the KickstArt Company with a standing ovation for this is yet another world class production.
(PS – yes I know Optimists don’t have jibs; see the show and you will get my drift…..)
Thanks to Publicity Matters Illa and Sophie for the largesse!

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