In the three years I have been writing reviews, I have never been more excited than to review Chicago. I fell in love with the film starring Rene Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones in 2002 and then again as the West End production I saw in 2008.
For most of you I am sure that Chicago needs little or no introduction, but for those of you that don’t know, I will take you back to 1924 when Chicago was run by gangsters, was it fully of criminality as well as jazz and glamour. Cook County jail had women on ‘murderers row’, all with their own story to tell. Just like the kiss-and-tell tactics used today to become celebs, these women used their tales to become stars.
Just as I expected the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre was packed on press night. The opening number All That Jazz sets a strong alluring tone, leaving you wanting more. There aren’t many musicals where the orchestra are on stage, leaving the set very simple, but certainly doesn’t take away from the energy on stage. However I had to repress the urge to push them back a metre or so to enable extra space for the dancers.
Murderesses Sophie Carmen-Jones (Velma Kelly) owned her roll from the start rocking her little black dress and Roxie Hart (Hayley Tamaddon) from Emmerdale, also instantly won us over, well after I got over the fact that she wasn’t blonde! Soon they found themselves on death row together, fighting for the fame that will keep them from the gallows in 1920s Chicago.
Chicago wouldn’t be Chicago without the puppet master John Partridge as Billy Flynn, you would recognise him from Eastenders and Big Brother. He plays a smooth talking lawyer, who knew how to play the media to get the verdict he was after. After his performance of All I Care About I wasn’t sure what I thought, then after his exuberance performance of We Both Reached for the Gun with Roxie, I was sold! Not to mention the classic number Razzle Dazzle. Only knowing him from TV it’s clear to see the stage is where he belongs.
Chicago is a fast paced musical, with a strong flawless cast. The singing, acting and choreography were on point. My favourite number is still the Cell Block Tango with Velma and the girls.
Another favourite was Gina Murray as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, even though I felt she should have been a bigger build, I’m probably comparing her to the film here, she most certainly didn’t need a bigger voice as she wowed us performing When You’re Good to Mama. This was her first night after two weeks of rehearsals and if this was her performance on opening night then all I can say is Mama is certainly going to be good for the show!
It’s probably best I don’t forget to mention Amos Hart played by Neil Ditt, aka Mr Cellophane. He nailed his role and is far from invisable. Actually I don’t want to leave anyone out, as there is usually a few weak links in a show; but with such a strong talented cast together they put on an unforgettable dazzling show, it really would be a crime to miss it and all that jazz!
The show will be touring until Saturday 16th July. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/chicago/aylesbury-waterside-theatre/