Music, Book/Lyrics: John Kander and Fred Ebb
Director: Walter Bobbie
Reviewer: Lu Greer
Each time a new run of Chicago hits the stage, it has some very large jazz shoes to fill. It’s a show that has run and run, been a smash hit musical and is a staple of millions of musical fans. Because of this, each time an audience is asked to another run of a show about two women killing their husbands in probation era Chicago, something exciting is needed to get them in their seats and razzle dazzle them.
As the curtains open, it is immediately evident that the focus here will be on the jazz. Dominating the majority of the stage is the eleven-piece band who each bring their own characters to the show, with the rest of the space being given over to minimalistic staging and the iconic black costumes. While the symbolism of the importance of the music is effective, once the ensemble takes to the stage for All That Jazz, things start to feel a little cramped and the big show choreography (Ann Reinking), while as beat perfect as ever, suffers a little from the lack of space.
With John Partridge as Billy Flynn and Hayley Tamaddon as Roxy Hart filling every billboard for Chicago, the audience is naturally expecting some show stopping numbers from the pair. Unfortunately, while both give solid performances, which are a little two comic and perhaps shallow at times, with Tamaddon losing her accent occasionally, they are entirely overshadowed by Sophie Carmen-Jones as Velma Kelly who embodies the jazz babe and has the knowing Velma smirk down to a tee. The ensemble is, with the exception of Velma, often stronger than the headline cast and bring the show to life. Lindsey Tierney is particularly notable in the rendition of Cell Block Tango in which her murderess performance is the perfect mix of intimidating and sexy that is indicative of the show as a whole.
This isn’t the strongest cast of Chicago, and the staging is at times awkward. That won’t matter to the audiences flocking to the show, though, because what it does have is swagger, sass, and all that jazz.
Runs until 5 November 2016 | Image: Catherine Ashmore