Royal & Derngate Theatre, Northampton – until Saturday 9 October 2021
Reviewed by Boo Wakefield
Chicago the Musical started its 10 month tour of the UK with all the sexiness, sassiness and razzle dazzle you would expect. Based on a play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse’s book brought Chicago to the stage in 1975. 46 years later, today’s Chicago does not disappoint.
Set in the decadent times of the late 1920s, it follows the downfall and reinvention of Roxie Hart, a nightclub dancer, who is accused of murdering her lover when he threatens to leave her. She manages to hoodwink her husband, the media and even her cellmate, Velma Kelly in her desperation to escape jail by hiring celebrity lawyer Billy Flynn. Roxie persuades her husband Amos to take the fall for her until he realises that the victim is in fact her lover. Even then, Amos agrees to pay for the lawyer but when Flynn agrees to take the case, Amos admits he has no money to pay his fee. Flynn then sets out to exploit Roxie in order to have his fee paid, at the cost of Velma’s defence.
From the start the ensemble were the glue to the show – slick, sharp, energetic but stylish, and oozing sex appeal, they delivered the choreography immaculately. A special mention must also go to Andrew Hilton and his 10-man orchestra, seated at the back of the stage, who provided perfect music throughout but also added wonderful pieces of comedy too. The Entr’acte was particularly entertaining with the band dancing as they played – I was surprised the audience didn’t join in as it was so infectious!
Faye Brookes gives a good performance as Roxie executing her numbers with perfect timing and convincing us of how self-absorbed and scheming her character is. Her duet with Darren Day (Billy Flynn) in “We Both Reached For The Gun” was particularly entertaining as she played the ventriloquist dummy to Flynn – a good analogy between Flynn manipulating Roxie as her lawyer. Joel Montague’s Amos was a particularly heart-wrenching performance, making you feel both sad and sorry for him. His performance of “Mister Cellophane” was very poignant and definitely a crowd-pleaser. However, Sinitta Malone playing Matron “Mama” Morton didn’t quite sit so well. In the part of Mama, you would expect a large character with a large presence on stage (Malone is of slight stature with a quiet voice) and although Malone has a lovely singing voice, it wasn’t as effective at projecting Mama’s character as it could have been.
Michelle Andrews (who stood in as the understudy as Velma) was the star of this production. From her first number “All That Jazz”, right through to the end, her performance was flawless with excellent comic timing and superb dancing. The energy she provided lifted the entire show.
Chicago provides all of the toe-tapping numbers you would expect and with the energy and delight it exhumes, it is a must to go and see!