Chicago

World-famous musical Chicago follows the lives of two women in a Chicago prison in the 1920s, both awaiting trial for murder. One of them, Velma Kelly, caught her husband having an affair with her sister and is accused of shooting them both, and the other, Roxy Hart, shot her lover when he tried to leave her. But in the showbiz world of the Chicago courts, the truth is a lot less important than putting on a show. Tricksy lawyer Billy Flynn will help them bamboozle the press into taking their sides… for the right price. The show is a homage to 1920s Vaudeville, complete with hit songs, beautifully choreographed dance sequences, and enough depth that there are real, believable characters and even a bit of political commentary thrown in too.

In this dazzling production, there isn’t a missed note.

In this dazzling production, there isn’t a missed note. The chorus is spectacular – funny, entertaining and with the kind of technical skill you can’t necessarily expect from a touring production. Chicago is also one of the few shows in which the presence of a lot of scantily clad women dancing provocatively doesn’t make you feel they’re being unfairly objectified; half the chorus is male and equally dressed to leave little to the imagination.

Sophie Carmen-Jones’ Velma is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and glamorous and has a knock-out voice that really brings all the power of Velma into the role. In the production I saw, understudy Ellie Mitchell played Mama Morton, and all I can say is if she’s the understudy, Jessie Wallace (who usually plays the role) must be incredible. Mitchell brings so much character to the role, and so much understated authority. She’s also practically the only person in the cast who is ever expected to express any non-selfish emotions, and she treads the difficult line between performing a light-hearted show with humour, and letting the pathos breathe, with real skill.

However, it is Hayley Tamaddon as Roxy Hart who really steals the show. She puts her stamp on the role in a way I found totally unexpected. In her hands, Roxy becomes quite a goofy character, a gleeful clown completely delighted by everything that is happening to her. It’s a novel interpretation, and she’s completely hilarious. It also allows her to really emphasise the contrast between her and Velma, thus gifting the audience with two radically different leads.

In all this is a fantastic production of a great show. Snappy choreography, excellent performances, and a few truly exciting twists that will be refreshing to even the most hardcore Chicago fans. Go see it!

Reviews by Grace Knight

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Performances

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The Blurb

“Murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts”…so begins the international award winning Broadway and West End musical, Chicago.

Starring: Jessie Wallace (EastEnders) one of Britain’s most loved soap stars, just announced in her first ever musical theatre UK tour, as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton joining West End and Celebrity Big Brother star John Partridge (EastEnders, Cats, A Chorus Line, Miss Saigon, Starlight Express) as Billy Flynn, and Dancing on Ice winner and Coronation Street star Hayley Tamaddon (Emmerdale, Grease, Mamma Mia!) as Roxie Hart.

Based on real life events back in the roaring 1920s, nightclub singer Roxie Hart shoots her lover and along with cell block rival, double-murderess Velma Kelly, fights to keep from death row with the help of smooth talking lawyer, Billy Flynn.

Created by the musical theatre talents of John Kander, Fred Ebb and legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, CHICAGO’s sexy, sassy score includes “All That Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle”. With 6 Tony, 2 Olivier, 1 Grammy, 2 Bafta and 6 Academy Awards, CHICAGO truly is “The sharpest, slickest show on the block” The Times.

A nightclub singer, a double-murderess, a smooth-talking lawyer and a cell block of sin; it would be a crime to miss it.

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