Book: Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Director: Walter Bobbie
Time to don your fishnets, your mesh t-shirt, your bowler hat and your dancing shoes: Chicago is back in town!
For anyone who missed the 2003 film version, Chicago tells the tale of foxy Roxie Hart (Coronation Street’s Faye Brookes), a wannabe 1920s Vaudeville star who shoots her lover in a moment of passion and ends up in jail. There she clashes with established Vaudevillian Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott) who ‘totally blacked out and can’t remember a thing’ about the murder of her own husband. The pair vie for the attention and talents of lawyer Billy Flynn (Lee Mead) in order to keep their star power burning and hopefully avoid the hangman’s noose.
The show oozes 1920s, with the majority of the stage dominated by the live jazz band, who really are the star of the show. It’s a refreshing change to see the orchestra out of the pit and musical director Andrew Hamilton is clearly having a blast getting involved with the actors. The jazz club feel is enhanced by lighting from Ken Billingham, with spots and colours that give a smoky feel without having to resort to actual smoke. And of course the highly sexual lingerie based costumes from William Ivey Long are iconic.
And what about the actors stepping into the costumes? Well, the show is rightfully stolen by Brookes. Her Roxie is bubbly and giggly, with an air of Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods about her, and her command of physical comedy is off the charts (which makes We Both Reached for the Gun and her final trail wonderful to watch). She is clearly made for the stage. Unfortunately she rather outshines the rest of the leads. Mead and Scott are both fantastic, but their energy seems to drag against Brookes. This is especially evident in Hot Honey Rag – Velma Kelly should not be out danced by upstart Roxie Hart. A little off putting too is the singing style of the cast. With the exception of Mama Morton (Michelle Andrews), everyone seems to be swallowing the end of their sentences as they sing. It’s accurate to jazz, but sometimes too much accuracy is a bad thing in a modern musical.
However, even with those slight disappointments, a look at the audience shows how great this production is. The sell out crowd were fully engaged and the show closed to rapturous applause. The musical numbers are sumptuous displays by astoundingly beautiful humans, the whole look of the show is gorgeous, and the music stays with you long after you have left the theatre. Just like Amos (Jamie Baughan), Chicago is more than the sum of its parts.
Runs until Saturday 9th July 2022.