You could give this one a miss – and you would be a fool, with a capital “F”. Roxie might rock Chicago but Chicago rocks Cape Town.
I have seen many incarnations of this musical. Some of them I saw here, some on the West End in London. And, I am not going to say our South African cast can hold a candle to the international productions for one reason and one reason only – I am tired of saying that. I am going to say that some of those international productions I have seen are even as good as this one.
Let me illustrate my point: take a character like Billy Flynn, for example. I have seen the lacklustre David Hasselhoff – I kid you not – playing Billy in a West End production of ‘Chicago’. And then in the current avatar we have our very own, dashing, electrifying Craig Urbani. ‘Nuf said. Actually no. Not enough said. He was the embodiment of pure enjoyment and delight, with every nuance and every note sung – even his few jaunty dance moves looked like he was having the time of his life!
Anyone who has seen the movie will know that Queen Latifah plays the role of the spirited Matron Mama Morton with great aplomb. In steps Ilse Klink with her powerhouse vocals and nobody blames one for asking: “Queen Latifah? Who dat?” And double ditto for KJ Haupt, reprising his role as the “no-nonsense” reporter, Mary Sunshine – still able to transform (both in look and demeanour) unrecognisably. These are the marks of true showmanship, of professionalism as performers.
I could go on and on about each of the leads – like Samantha Peo – this time in the role of Velma Kelly. Try as one might, one cannot keep one’s eyes off her when she is on-stage. She and her obligatory other half that makes ‘Chicago’ ‘Chicago’, Roxie Hart who this time is embodied by the versatile Carmen Pretorius, are every bit as dynamic a duo as ones I had seen before, save for a moment or two on opening night when a combination of possible nerves and/or fatigue and/or pushing too hard might have got the better of each of them at different points in the performance. This will settle in a heartbeat, though. And, even though I have written these lines I must disclose: my fear is that I might be doing unfair subliminal, unintentional comparisons in my head between those that played the roles before, which, is a bit of a perilous thing to do.
The chorus of a ‘Chicago’ cast is not really a chorus, is it? They are as much part of the finished, polished product that makes the experience the worthwhile trip to the theatre. They dance, sing and act in equal, dazzling measure. And if there is ever a musical that has not a point or a flex out of place, it is ‘Chicago’. In any case, who can resist a Bob Fosse spectacle? Methinks a second jaunt to Artscape might be on the cards for me before April 14 – just to have a look-see if all is still well, sexy, sassy and sparkling with the razzle dazzle that is ‘Chicago’.
RESIDENT DIRECTOR: Philip Godawa
CAST: Carmen Pretorius, Samantha Peo, Ilse Klink, Craig Urbani, KJ Haupt, Grant Towers.
VENUE: Artscape Opera House until April 14.
REVIEWER: Rafiek Mammon