Muddy reviews: Chicago
There are some major gaps in my musical history and Chicago is definitely one of them. Winner of six Tony and two Olivier awards, it ran in the West End for 15 years, and is still running on Broadway – and yet I still managed to miss it. I haven’t even seen the film (with Zellweger, Zeta-Jones and Gere). Shameful, I know.
Anyway I’ve now put that to rights because I saw the first night of Chicago at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre last night and can report what probably everyone else in the UK knows – it’s mighty good. It’s based on real life events back in the roaring Twenties. Nightclub singer Roxie Hart shoots her lover and along with cell block rival, double-murderess Velma Kelly, they fight to keep from death row with the help of smooth-talking lawyer, Billy Flynn.
It’s a slick production: sassy, stylish and funny. Oh, and sexy, definitely sexy. Those fishnets, those legs! Some of them go on forever. Alongside those minimal costumes is a pared back set, with the band on stage – as much a part of this production as the brilliant ensemble cast. This is one hot musical extravaganza.
In this revival, Sophie Carmen-Jones plays Velma Kelly, the original sex-pot on the cell block – tough performer awaiting trial for the murder of her sister and husband. Carmen-Jones is a brilliant Velma, confident, sassy but with a hint of vulnerability beneath layers of bravado.
Hayley Tamaddon shines as Roxie Hart, bringing out her playful and cheeky side. And who knew the former Emmerdale and Corrie actress had such a stunning voice. Alonside Carmen-Jones, these two women rock that stage.
EastEnders actor John Partridge stepped into the shoes of super-suave Billy Flynn. He’s confident and self-assured. And another soap actor with an amazing set of lungs. There’s a fabulous number where Billy controls Roxie like a ventriloquist’s dummy. It’s charming and clever, and comes off perfectly.
And then there was Jessie Wallace as the utterly convincing prison leader Mama Morton. If I was being picky, I thought Jessie’s costuming was a bit drab alongside the others, but Jessie has stage presence, and can sure belt out a song. Neil Ditt, too, manages a moment in the spotlight during ‘Mister Cellophane’ as the Roxie’s poor pathetic husband, and A D Richardson is fab as Mary Sunshine.
This is a show that’s all about the moves and the big numbers. The dancing is energetic, perfectly timed, sexy, sultry and, frankly, darned impressive. The music is irresistible, serving up a mix of comic cabaret with swinging brass and jazz club sultriness.
But hey, what’s Chicago if not to belt out those tunes? Created by the musical theatre talents of John Kander, Fred Ebb and legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, the sexy, sassy score make it almost impossible not to join in. You can’t help but sing ‘All That Jazz’ all the way home.
Chicago is on until Saturday 22 Oct, with matinee performances on Wednesday and Saturday. Tickets are £15 to £44.50.
New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, GU21 6GQ, Tel: 0844 871 7645. atgtickets.com