Review - Chicago
Just as then as it is now sex and death make all the headlines
The long running Kander & Ebb musical, made so timeless by Bob Fosse's style and choreography is given a 4k HD uplift by director Stacey Haynes in this current UK tour, upping the intensity and, if at all possible, raising the bar even higher.
The story of jazz murderesses Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott) and Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) and their strive for freedom, glory, fame and fortune could be as true today as it was when written - the obsession with 15 minutes of fame, the playing out in public of every move and countermove has been seen oh so recently in the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard case. But what the Depp/Heard case missed out on was the the brilliant choreography (Gary Chryst), the dynamism of the orchestra (lead by the irrepressible Andrew Hilton) and a dance ensemble whose impeccable timing and stunning visuals were simply perfection.
Scott's Kelly is almost jaded, she plays the fine line between still believing she is headline worthy and accepting that yesterday's news is todays chip wrapper. She brings a massive amount of pathos into Kelly without ever looking directly for pity.
Brookes' Roxie is packed full of sass, attitude and bravado yet you still get to see underneath the frightened little girl desperate to escape from this horrible experience but never really accepting it was of her own making.
Both leads have stunning voices, can match and move to the Fosse routines with grace and poise and easily held the attention of a sell out Empire.
Best of all, Scott and Brookes play like cat and mouse in the prison scenes, each vying to be the top dog to Mama Morton's Warden (Delycia Belgrave) whose own mantra is "you be good to Mama, she'll be good to you". Always on the make, Morton is the girls only hope both for freedom and any follow up fame.
Of course, to win that freedom, anyone will need a good lawyer ad in Billy Flynn (Lee Mead) they have Chicago's finest. Whilst reporting to only take a case for 'love' Flynn wants his pound of flesh and will only take a case if he knows he's got a cert of winning. Mead is brilliant as the cool, stylish Flynn - his stage experience gained from such roles as Joseph, Emmet in Legally Blonde and Caractacus Potts in the UK Tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang mans he will always be at ease performing the big numbers. Add to that his extensive runs in Casualty and Holby City and you've a lead who can keep the small nuances of character ever present.
Completing the main cast are Jamie Baughan as Roxie's downtrodden husband Amos and B E Wong as voice of the people news reporter Miss Mary Sunshine. Baughan hit Amos right on the head with his portrayal of the simple garage mechanic who just couldn't keep up with his wife's desires for fame, fun and frivolity - his rendition of Mr Cellophane brought the audience to their feet. As for Miss Sunshine, wow, what a brilliant, and somewhat surprising and unique performance Wong delivers - it was most certainly the talking point of the car journey home.
Of course, Kelly and Hart are not alone in the prison and we are treated to a Cell Block Tango by the other prisoners which just oozed sexual menace and female power.
Special mention again to the dance ensemble - having seen many different productions of Chicago I can safely proclaim that this dance troupe are by far the best ever; I am sure that if Fosse were alive today he would say "THIS is how I want it to be done" before still giving direction to make it even better (ever the perfectionist)
Packed full of iconic songs, dance routines, sex, style and of course, razzle dazzle, this tour of Chicago is a 5 star show.
Available at Sunderland until 4th June - treat yourself to a Jubilee weekend treat.