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Stratford ROCKS Chicago

‘You are about to see a story of greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts.’ - Chicago

Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Velma Kelly and the company of Stratford's Chicago

Last weekend, I went back to The Stratford Festival. It’s one of my favourite places, and I was treated to their dazzling production of Chicago.

‘In the Roaring Twenties, aspiring chorus girl Roxie Hart and fading vaudeville star Velma Kelly each face trial for murder. Both as cynical as they are sexy, the two women compete for the services of shady lawyer Billy Flynn, who promises to make them media celebrities and win them acquittals.’ - Summary from the Stratford website.

Before we get any further, here are a few little content warnings for Chicago. The story, of course, contains murder, violence, and sexual innudendo. The production also uses flashing lights, smoke, haze, and gunshots. If any of these aren’t your thing, this show might not be for you.

There is truly no higher calibre of musical theatre than a Stratford production, and Chicago offers substantial proof.

Chicago has music by John Kander and Fred Ebb, a book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, and based on the play by Maureen Dallas Watkins (with script adaptations by David Thompson). The Stratford production is directed and choreographed by Donna Feore, with music direction by Franklin Brasz, set design by Michael Gianfrancesco, costume design by Dana Osbourne, lighting design by Michael Walton, and sound design by Peter McBoyle.

Chicago’s musical adaptation was written as a vaudeville satire of corruption within the criminal justice system and the idea of the celebrity criminal. This production truly captures these themes in the best way possible. Stratford’s Chicago understands the material, presenting a show that is bright, flashy, and full of razzle dazzle!

Michael Walton’s lighting design, Michael Gianfrancesco’s set design, and Dana Osbourne’s costume design elevate the production’s vaudeville elements, creating a world which both leaps off the stage and draws audiences in.

Steve Ross as Amos Hart in Chicago, photo by David Hou

The entire cast of Chicago deserves high praise for this incredible production, bringing high energy, precisely executed dance moves, and a cohesive understanding of the show and the vision. These performers are incredible and inspirational. It’s hard to only mention a few in this review, but here are a few personal favourites:

Jennifer Rider-Shaw gives a tour de force performance as the delightfully violent Velma Kelly. Each step she takes onstage is precise, elegant, and entertaining. She is a true triple threat with a magnetic stage presence that demands attention.

Amos Hart may be Mr. Cellophane, but Steve Ross gives a standout performance. Ross is known for his comedic prowess, and for good reason. Throughout the show, Amos has few solo moments, but Ross’ nuanced performance draws in audiences even when he isn’t centre stage.

Other favourite performances include R. Markus as a brilliant Mary Sunshine, Dan Chameroy as a charismatic Billy Flynn, Chelsea Preston as a ravishing Roxie Hart, and of course, the Six Merry Murderesses played by Bethany Kovarik, Amanda Lundgren, Heather Kosik, Bonnie Jordan, and Celeste Catena.

The powerful ensemble of dancers are delightful and awe-inspiring, and I was truly on the edge of my seat waiting for each dance number to start! I was thoroughly wowed both times I saw the show. If you are looking to be dazzled by dance, this is the show for you!

Chicago is still playing at Stratford’s Festival Theatre through October 30th, 2022, leaving you plenty of time to catch this fantastic production! I’ve been twice, and firmly believe that this is the hot ticket of the summer and fall season.

You can pick up tickets at the link below:

If you’re curious about the real-life story behind Chicago, check out the link below:

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