Bringing some “razzle dazzle” and “all that jazz” (see what I did there?!) to the New Victoria Theatre, this dark musical is still as relevant today as when it was first seen on stage.
Having last been seen in the West End in 2012, Chicago still proves to be a popular and sassy musical with an exquisite layer of dark humour at the centre of it, focusing on the darker side of fame.
Chicago (based on a true story), follows Roxie Hart who is charged with the murder of her lover but is desperate to escape at a time when hanging was the punishment for murderers and in this case murderesses and needs the help of lawyer Billy Flynn to get her off the hook. Throw into the mix a rivalry with the already famous Velma Kelly and soon things take an interesting turn.
Packed with sharp, sassy and at times dark humoured songs by Fred Ebb and John Kander, this is a musical that certainly knows how to use music and choreography for effect and as a storytelling technique, making up for a lack of dialogue.
While telling the story through the music is observant and refreshing, there is still a need for a bit more dialogue than is provided for in this production to see how the characters engage with each other and to give them a bit more personality as well as making the scenes feel a bit more developed – for example we don’t get a chance to see how Roxie adapts to life in prison between “Funny Honey” and “Cell Block Tango” and very little time is given to her scene in the courtroom.
Of course this means that the production is fast and energetic as well as being filled with passionate and slick choreography that is performed excellently by all of the cast, with the sequences for “Cell Block Tango” and the surprisingly funny “We Both Reached for the Gun” being particular standout moments.
The cast also provide strong performances. Hayley Tamaddon as Roxie shows an interesting development from a bored housewife to a scheming and manipulative woman willing to do anything for a bit of fame, most clearly expressed during the song “Roxie”. Meanwhile Sophie Carmen-Jones as Velma is suitably arrogant before becoming increasingly desperate as she realises Roxie is stealing her position, while vocally she is strong as her rendition of “All That Jazz” shows.
This production sees John Partridge taking on the role of the smooth and money obsessed lawyer Billy Flynn, charismatic but with a hint of sleaziness about him that somehow manages to work and charm even the audience. Jessie Wallace as ‘Mama’ Morton is a revelation and a delight, in a role that showcases the strength of her personality and vocals.
With no scene changes required and the wonderful orchestra also being more involved with the action, the overall vibe of the production is sharp, sexy and simple, showing how the idea of fame and the way in which humans will do anything to get it is still a powerful idea that resonates now.
Dark, dangerous and unmissable it is a real pleasure to see this musical back on the stage where it belongs.