Chicago IS musical theatre; it’s the absolute definition of it.
The curtain lifts on a stage empty bar a chair, a bowler hat and a golden spotlight. The jazz band, centre stage, begins the incredibly famous tune to ‘All That Jazz’ as tingles works its way up my spine. Simple but incredibly effective.
Velma Kelly (Sophie Carmen-Jones) and the chorus with their collection of incredible physiques launch onto the stage performing, most enviably, All That Jazz. And I’m mesmerised. Sophie owns the stage like no other; I’ve not seen a lead performance this good since seeing Samantha Barks as Nancy at the Hippodrome in Oliver Twist. She is the epitome of Velma Kelly and I’m drawn to her every time she is on stage.
The story is famous. But what isn’t perhaps widely known is it is based on a true story. It’s a gripping story of murder set in the Prohibition-era of Chicago, pretty Roxie Hart (Hayley Tamaddon) shoots her lover dead as he attempts to leave her. Sent to prison where she awaits trail, she meets THE beautiful and alluring Velma Kelly (Sophie Carmen-Jones) who seems to have worked the system and Mama (Sam Bailey) in her favour that was, until the new flavour of the month comes on the scene.
I must note that both John Partridge (portraying Billy Flynn, best known from Eastenders) and Sam Bailey (as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, X Factor winner) was surprising treats. Admittedly I am not the biggest Eastenders or X Factor fan (perhaps at all having not seen it for almost a decade) so my expectations were not too vast, however, both are absolutely incredible talents both vocally (John Partridge and his musical ability, WOW!, that was unexpected) and in performance, they owned the stage when it was theirs to own.
Personally, I felt that Hayley Tamaddon’s portrayal of Roxi, at times, was a bit too over the top for me. Perhaps I am basing this off the film too much, damn that point of reference, but felt Roxi should have had more of an edge to her and on a few too many occasions I found her to be more excitable and irritating than deceptive and cunning. Saying that, Hayley is an incredible performer (what a voice) and for the most part, I can’t fault her pizzazz.
Chicago, generally is an incredible production, the lighting that sets that low, dark mood and the jazz music that plays appropriately to the mood throughout. It’s the glitz and glam with an edge, a sometimes comical edge. But over and above, it’s the incredible musical and dance numbers that leaves your jaw dropping. Or in the case of the musical director (Ben Atkinson), falling over backwards, you’ll only get that reference if you see if for yourselves, which I strongly suggest you do…..
As the saying goes, ‘Razzle Dazzle ‘em and they’ll beg you for more’.