Set in the prohibition era, Chicago tells the story of Roxie Hart, who shoots her lover and finds herself of death row; alongside Vaudeville star Velma Kelly. Enter slick lawyer and media manipulator, Billy Flynn, who takes on Roxie’s case and simultaneously pushes Velma out of the headlines. As the two women catfight for the spotlight, the dirty tricks and rivalry escalate as each try to ensure that they make the front page. ★★★★
Chicago premièred on Broadway in 1975, and its tongue in cheek swipe at the transient nature of celebrity and the public’s obsession with the latest media sensation was not only remarkably prophetic but still remains relevant; reflected by the ever increasing batch of non-entities who seem to find favour in the public eye. After all, if Billy Flynn can make a murderess the darling of the tabloids, then surely anyone can have their moment in the spotlight?
The score remains toe-tappingly fun. With its 1930’s jazz feel; a number of the songs retain their power and spectacle. The opening number, “All That Jazz” and “The Cell Block Tango” remain highlights, as does “We Both Reached For The Gun” and “I Can’t Do It Alone” as the show rests in the territory of not being too far from a sing through musical.
Performed by an excellent cast, this has to be one of the better touring productions of this musical for some time. Hayley Tamaddon (Coronation Street) injected Roxie Hart’s character with a little wide eyed amazement at her entry into the limelight whilst Samantha Morton (X Factor) was able to hit the high notes as Mama Morton. The ensemble cast were a delight, maintaining the precision of the trademark Bob Fosse choreography, and uniformly executing the complex routines. Only John Partridge let the side down; sashaying across the stage with a slightly odd and slightly all over the place performance as Billy Flynn which sat uneasily in comparison to the rest of the cast. But the night, and the show, belonged to triple threat Sophie Carmen-Jones as Velma Kelly, nowhere more evident than in her duet of “Class” with Samantha Morton.
The show remains as sexy as ever, with an abundance of bulging biceps, washboard stomachs and pecs to die for. The leather waistcoats, mesh shirts and lace dresses, all accompanied by some very tight trousers, means that the show has lost none of its raunchiness or sex appeal. Add into that a talented cast, some great songs, a monochrome presentation, a note perfect on stage band, subtle lighting design and a set which requires very little more than a few chairs and you have a great production.
With a solid production and a talented cast, Chicago remains sexy, sassy, smart and classy.
Chicago is currently at Sheffield Theatres (www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk) until 9th June 2016 before continuing on its national tour up until December 2016. Visit the show’s website at chicagothemusical.com for further details.
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.