Saturday, 19 August 2017

Album Review: Chicago (1997 London Cast Recording)

“A lot of people have lost faith in America”

I quite like the film version of Chicago but was surprised by the extent to which I had internalised its soundtrack upon listening to this London Cast Recording from 1997. Part of that lies in the fact that it is good few years since I’ve seen it onstage but there’s no excuse really, for a theatre nut like me. And sure enough, surrendering to the thrill of Ruthie Henshall and Ute Lemper here was a genuine pleasure and a great way to revisit Kander & Ebb’s score.

Henshall’s Roxie and Lemper’s Velma are surely among the best that these characters have ever been sung. The unrelenting stunt casting that kept the show a West End presence perhaps devalued the music a bit but in these hands, with these voices, you come to really appreciate the emotional complexity and proper darkness of these women and what they’re forced to do in order to keep their head above water and then some.

Henshall spares us nothing of Roxie’s highly scheming nature and Lemper’s full-throated ambition practically bursts from the speakers, and it is an immediate eye-opener as to how much life-giving force the best of musical theatre can bring (no offence to Zellweger, Zeta-Jones or any number of reality stars…) Henry Goodman is highly entertaining as Billy Flynn too, though I remain of the opinion that ‘Mr Cellophane’ really is inconsequential, no matter Nigel Planer’s efforts here.

The gin is cold, the piano’s hot, if you want to listen to Chicago, then look no further.

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