Music/Lyrics: John Kander &Fred Ebb
Book: Fred Ebb &Bob Fosse
Director: Scott Farris
Reviewer: Lindsay Sykes
Even though Chicago has now closed in the West End this tour keeps the performance going. Telling the story of how Roxie Hart gets away with murder with the help of slick lawyer Billy Flynn. Her time in prison with the notorious Velma Kelly, duping her ever loving husband Amos and being good to Mama Morton while in Prison. It is based on a true story from the 1920’s.
But this classic Kander and Ebb musical lacks the razzle dazzle. With all the principal characters played by people previously in soap operas this seems like stunt casting. Using the past characterisations of the actors to fill the seats rather than relying on the musical itself to fill theatres. We were also relying on understudies due to illness from two of the principals.
Tupele Dorgu shows her abilities well with a wonderful version of Velma Kelly, singing All That Jazz with vocals that are thrilling and unexpected, stealing every scene she is in. Stefan Booth was indisposed so Ian Oswald stepped up but he lacks the spark needed to play the devious Billy Flynn. Rather surprisingly, Bernie Nolan fails to hold the stage with her rather seedy Mama Morton and her accent moves between Irish and American with ease. Ali Bastion was also ill and we had understudy Chloe Ames proving she can sing and dance her way through Roxie Hart but while Roxie is devious using people as she needs them, Ames comes across as too nice and it’s hard to take her rôle seriously. Her voice also comes over as weak especially during My Own Best Friend, but that could be because Dorgu has a particularly strong voice, drowning out Ames’ efforts. Jamie Baughan is fabulous as Mr Cellophane, Amos Hart, and is definitely the most sympathetic character on stage.
The set is interesting with the band in a nightclub setting in the middle of the stage all the way through the show. The ensemble are sat on chairs at the side of the stage, as if in a rehearsal room.
Despite the weather, it was a full house and the Sheffield audience seemed to enjoy themselves. Let’s hope that the illness soon passes and the show can be up at full strength soon