Book: Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music: John Kander
Roxie Hart relies on the smart mouth of renowned lawyer Billy Flynn to get her out of trouble and onto the path of glitz and glamour in this sizzling production of Chicago which makes its way to Dartford’s Orchard Theatre as part of its UK Tour.
Chicago, the iconic Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse production, throws us back to the glitzy Jazz Age of 20s America, where sleaze and fame go hand-in-hand, and this new touring production does well to capture the essence of the piece. This is a Chicago which, by-and-large, moves at a stealthy pace and shifts from song to song with ease. There are a few moments which cause the momentum to wobble slightly, but there is enough punch to entice audiences.
Faye Brookes’ superb portrayal of the scheming and seductive murderess Roxie Hart steals the show. Brookes proves herself a triple threat in a standout performance of this iconic character, capturing the manipulative and deceptive quality of the character, determined to achieve fame and fortune by any means, with ease. Roxie’s iconic number, Roxie, can make or break any production, yet Brookes’ iteration of this could be one of the best.
Russell Watson is slick as the silver-tongued hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn, seeking to cash in on the media swarm around his clients. Watson adapts to the role well and holds the stage confidently. There are moments too where he is able to shine, including a superb duet with the effortless Brookes.
Sheila Ferguson’s ‘Mama’ is understated yet commanding. Ferguson brings her own talents to the character’s well-known number, yet the understatement of her character in this portrayal only adds to her overall poise and presence. Ferguson looks at ease being at either the front or at the back of the stage, and it is an interesting take on the character that works well.
Djalenga Scott is Velma, and is powerful in the role as her character feels threatened and pushed aside by the prison’s newer and more interesting media fodder. Scott’s Velma is strong and assertive, and her defiance is captured well by Scott whose singing and dancing skills are impressively on display here.
This production, choreographed by Ann Reinking using the original Bob Fosse style as inspiration, enjoys some impressive routines which are dynamic and slick in their delivery. The ensemble cast perform some demanding and breathtaking routines, which capture the heart and spirit of the production. The stylised movements of the piece do hark back to Fosse’s original work successfully and some routines, such as the wonderfully creative We Both Reached for the Gun reach spectacular heights. Chicago is a show built upon glitz and glamour, and the routines live up to the standard.
Touring productions can, at times, live or die without a live orchestra. Not all, but some productions do fall away as cast members fight to be heard over a pre-recorded score. Chicago, however, under the stewardship of music director Andrew Hilton, does not falter. The ‘big band’ feel that the orchestra offers helps to immerse the audience into the 1920s vibe of speakeasies and cabaret clubs, and the quality of music is high.
Chicago celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2025, and as the half-century begins to appear on the horizon, there is still enough jazz in this piece to keep fans happy for a little while yet. This is a sensuous, seductive and sizzling production which hurdles some ropier moments and is delivered well by a jaw-droppingly good cast.
Run until 23rd April 2022 then continues to tour