Last month Chicago played its final performance here in London. Glam took our seats (with a hankie in hand) for the last curtain call…
Somehow, and I’m not sure how, I’d managed to make it into my mid-twenties without being a part of the audience at Chicago. Something which I am a little embarrassed about to say the least, and not just because of its star cast resume, gripping plot (murder, sex and showbiz, I challenge anyone not to be gripped by this) or Oscar-winning film spin-off. So I jumped at the chance of attending the final curtain call.
Arriving at the Garrick Theater the air was filled with a mix of excitement and unrest; after 15 years running time in the capital I wouldn’t have expected anything less. After all, the bright lights of Chicago have been here longer than some of landmarks on London skyline. But as the curtain went up and first note of All That Jazz could be heard, any sadness faded away and we joined the cast in the roaring twenties.
Unlike many other musicals that rely on set and costumes, Chicago is unique from the offset: the set is simple and the wardrobe void of any elaborate dress, apart from the lashings of leather and killer fishnets of course – a dose of edgy-cool to the stage, a rarity in the musical world! But back to the performance. Such styling ensured the spotlight was firmly on the cast, which Rachel McDowall (Velma Kelly), Sarah Soetaert (Roxie Hart) and Jasna Ivir (Matron ‘Mama Morton) energetically excelled under. Not one corner of the stage was left upturned and not one note unheard: 150 minutes of sexed-up, thrilling entertainment.
Beginning with the big reveals – Velma has murdered both her husband and sister while Roxie has done the same to her lover – the plot continues as a restless and at times breathless search for freedom, in which the journey is far more important than the eventual world outside of Cook County Jail – Ventriloquist acts, media scrums, growing fame, hoax pregnancies, it’s all there. The audience gripped by the dram (myself included), not even the melting pot of Haagen Daz could distract my attention from the stage
Sadly for the audience, Velma and Roxi are released from their life behind bars, bringing the performance to an end. An end that was accompanied by whooping, cheering and a few falling tears.
Chicago had said its goodbyes to the capital with (yet) another stellar performance – two of the musical’s longstanding fans (they’ve been in the audience since the first performance, following the show as moved from theater to theater around town) confirmed this. And how did it celebrate? With a party of course across the road in the National Portrait Gallery with free-flowing Russian Standard Vodka cocktails, a host of friends and undoubtedly, all that jazz!