MusicalNorth WestReview

Chicago The Musical – Liverpool Empire

Reviewer: Clare Comer

Lyrics: Fred Ebb

Music: John Kander

Book: Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse

Director: Walter Bobby

“Murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery… all those things we hold near and dear to out hearts”, and so begins Chicago The Musical!

Set in the 1920’s, during the age of jazz, Chicago is loosely based on true events witnessed by Maurine Watkins, who then turned her findings into a play. Watkins highlighted how in the 1920s a pretty face really could get away with murder and her script was such a hit that it became the basis of two films and the 1975 Kander and Ebb musical that we still see today.

The jazz feel to the show is accentuated by the amazing orchestra, led by musical director Andrew Hilton, who remain on stage for the entire show. They are very much a highlight, interacting with cast throughout and getting rapturous applause from the audience on several occasions.

The plot itself focuses on two murderous women. The first, Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes), is jailed and facing hanging for murdering her lover who threatened to leave her. The second, Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott) is jailed for killing her husband and the woman he was having an affair with – although she maintains throughout that she has no memory of the murders she just remembers “the blood on her hands!”

There is something lacking about Brooke’s portrayal of Roxie. While appearing sweet (although murderous) her dialogue and musical numbers are forgettable. This may be due to the sheer talent of Scott though, who is sassy and sultry throughout! Scott’s vocals are stunning and has a dance ability to match, never looking out of place in company numbers and her rendition of All That Jazz being a true show a highlight.

This week in Liverpool saw the arrival of two new cast members. Russell Watson took over the role of Billy Flynn, the attorney who charges high fees, but who wins trials by turning them into a media circus. Sheila Ferguson also stepped into the role of powerhouse Matron “Mama” Morton, the matron of the Cook County Jail, who takes bribes from inmates to make calls or to help them escape their impending sentence with the help of Billy Flynn. Unfortunately, both characters were somewhat lacking. While vocally both Watson and Ferguson are strong, they have no real character depth – hopefully, this improves as the pair get more performances under their belts.

There are a couple of highlights during the show. Amos Hart (Jamie Bauhhan), Roxie’s downtrodden husband, gives a great rendition of Mr Cellophane and the full company number We Both Reached For The Gun are hit with the audience. It’s a shame that the ensemble aren’t used more during the show, as it’s only when they appear on stage that there seems to be any real energy. Even the notorious Cell Block Tango was lacking in magic. Having an ensemble that evidently oozes talent and dance capability running around chairs for several counts just seems such a waste!

The show overall emerges as a success, but that is only due to the fabulous, the stunning orchestra and star of the show Djalenga Scott. Overall, while it may razzle, this production of Chicago doesn’t really dazzle!

Runs Until 12 February 2022 – then continues on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Lacking in Razzle and Dazzle

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The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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