CHICAGO SUMMER SCHOOL
Tomorrow's Talent at Little Waltham
They pulled it off last year with a pared-down, no-frills Cats; this year the even more demanding, infinitely darker Chicago, the three-ring circus of Cook County Jail, where celebrity is a drug and murder is entertainment.
Gavin Wilkinson's karaoke version was hard-hitting [though they did “pipe down the swearing”] and caught the steamy atmosphere to perfection. No lighting to help, nor sound reinforcement, just these madly talented young people [average age 14 or 15], inventive choreography and stunning stagecraft. And the chairs of course, used with flair and imagination. The precision of the movements, the depth of the characterizations were an incredible achievement in less than a week.
A very strong ensemble, all of them characters in their own right, and very effective in the big numbers – the sisterhood tango, Razzle Dazzle complete with knife throwing act. Sam Toland was a touching Mr Cellophane, Ashton Reed played seasoned vaudevillian Velma, with dance captain Liz Pilgrim as Mama Morton. Some of the best character work came from wannabe celebrity Roxie [Sophie Walker], and her mouthpiece Flynn, a very stylish Josh Butcher. Their impeccable quick-fire duet, which blossoms into a full-blown riot of dance moves, was brilliantly done. I could believe that sequence alone took five days to set, but no, the whole hour was polished and perfected from scratch in that time. Sixty minutes of energetic, emotional musical theatre, and still oomph enough for the Hot Honey Rag and a fantastic finale.
production photograph by Louise Freeland