Theatre review: Chicago
The age of innocence
In a week that's left pop culture consumers hot and bothered, the film Fifty Shades Darker was finally released in theatres on 9 February, the same day as the premiere of the musical Chicago. Both draw you in with pleasures of the skin and sound, sharing a more-than-normal love for tassels and firearms. But if you're not into thin plots, unoriginal romantic gestures and a forgettable soundtrack, we suggest you stick to a text that knows what it's doing, having entertained audiences for 43 years.
The '20s has been a trendsetter in the realms of makeup and fashion to architecture. You know this from the prohibition-inspired cocktails that resurface in bars to the popularity of flapper costumes during Halloween — and let's not forget those Gatsby-themed weddings that come up on Pinterest after Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation in 2013. This decade's potent combination of drink and jazz influenced two women to murder their lovers, an account that made its way into a Broadway play written in 1926, which then informed the story of Chicago, created in 1975. Centering on the life of Roxie Hart, a dancer who awaits trial after murdering her lover, she encounters inmate Velma Kelly, who's also waiting to take the stand for crimes of passion. In prison, the audience is also met with the Queen Bee of the troup, Mama, as well as fellow female inmates — think Orange Is The New Black with more sass and dance.
Chicago hasn't overstayed its welcome on stage, still holding the record for longest-running American musical in Broadway and West End history. Whether you're familiar with the film version with Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere or the musical version, it's a story that's timeless in both style and execution. After visiting us in 2000 and 2010 at the Kallang and Esplanade theatres respectively, it finds its new home at the Marina Bay Sands theatre.
Bringing down its cast from the United Kingdom, Lindsey Tierney stars as Roxie Hart, while Genevieve Nicole takes on the role of Velma Kelly. Both are introduced early in the set, which is framed by a copper gold border that disappears into a black ladder on both sides once the lights go down. Instead of concealing themselves beneath the stage, the 11-piece orchestra's presence is full-frontal, forming a character who's as much part of the cast as the speaking parts.
This two and a half hour blast to the past entices you on so many levels. As the sashay of hips quicken and shapely legs stand to make a point, the cast's splits and shimmies show off as much physical prowess as their vocal chops soar. While written decades ago, it's witty, sharp brand of comedy wasn't lost on the audience as giggles and guffaws escape to lines such as "If you want my gravy, pepper my ragout". The timelessness of the script is a testament to the script's original Broadway writers (John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse), but the actors' delivery ride those words into contemporary appeal. Prison has never looked and sounded this good.
If you want to be wholly entertained, Chicago will make your night — and you wouldn't need to get your panties in a twist to demand your dollar back. 50 shades who?
Chicago runs till 26 February at Sands Theatre, MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands. Book through Marina Bay Sands or Sistic.