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Chicago at Bromley Churchill Theatre – Review

CHICAGO. Hayley Tamaddon as 'Roxie Hart' and John Partridge as 'Billy Flynn'.
CHICAGO. Hayley Tamaddon as ‘Roxie Hart’ and John Partridge as ‘Billy Flynn’. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

It hasn’t stayed away from the stage for long but Chicago is back and everyone is welcoming it with open arms. The Broadway and West End spectacular is embarking on a UK tour with a cast that will please many stage and TV-screen fans. From what is considered one of the most well-known and celebrated musicals of all time, Chicago proves that it still has much to show and offer.

Directed by Walter Bobbie, this musical is staged slickly and provides the expected sexiness. There are certain echoings of Rufus Norris’s production of Cabaret – which is widely considered one of the best productions of an equally celebrated Kander and Ebb musical. The darkness and simple lighting add to the show’s lust and seductive nature. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a touring show up at these creative standards. Ann Reinking does a great job adjusting the original Bob Fosse choreography and putting her own flair on it – it is a constant pleasure to watch.

The cast, though less diverse than one would expect in a show nowadays, work in great unison and they all get their chance to showcase themselves. However, the show clearly belongs to Sophie Carmen-Jones and Hayley Tamaddon who play magnetic murderesses Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, respectively. Throughout, these two leads showcase nothing but charisma and undeniable talent. They contrast whilst complementing each other and play the show to its sexy, foolish, comedic effects and are both a joy vocally.

One of the major pulls for this show is John Partridge playing luring lawyer, Billy Flynn. Though this Billy Flynn is not as charming as the character we’ve known in past productions and the famous film, but more obviously conniving and cut-throat. The character is unfortunately not as likeable as expected, but Partridge still delivers vocally and keeps his fans in the audience clearly very happy. EastEnder’s star Jessie Wallace appears as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton and proves she has a set of pipes. Unfortunately, you are left wanting more from her and feel that she is underused – she doesn’t get much of a standout opportunity apart from her entrance song.

A special mention should also go to A D Richardson – one of the best Mary Sunshine’s and seems to be getting universal acclaim for the performance.

The cast work incredibly well together but definitely all shine solo. Certain dialogue scenes with one another can lose momentum quite easily and jokes can fall flat or struggle on delivery – but when characters are taking the spotlight, the interest is back and stronger than ever. Many smart and original character choices are made and it’s just a shame that it’s not always consistent. There are times when the shows lacks bite, though they are few and far between.

All in all, this show is strong and is a tour that every theatre fan should try to attend – though, Chicago will never be gone for too long. The music is undeniably timeless and the creative direction and talents of the cast are strong enough to put hard-to-please theatre fans hands together in joyous applause.

4 stars

Review by Tomm Ingram

“Murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts”…so begins the international award winning Broadway and West End musical, CHICAGO, which comes to The Churchill Theatre for one week only.

Starring: Jessie Wallace (EastEnders) one of Britain’s most loved soap stars, just announced in her first ever musical theatre UK tour, as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton joining West End and Celebrity Big Brother star John Partridge (EastEnders, Cats, A Chorus Line, Miss Saigon, Starlight Express) as Billy Flynn, and Dancing on Ice winner and Coronation Street star Hayley Tamaddon (Emmerdale, Grease, Mamma Mia!) as Roxie Hart. 

Based on real life events back in the roaring 1920s, nightclub singer Roxie Hart shoots her lover and along with cell block rival, double-murderess Velma Kelly, they fight to keep from death row with the help of smooth talking lawyer, Billy Flynn.

Created by the musical theatre talents of John Kander, Fred Ebb and legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, CHICAGO’s sexy, sassy score includes All That Jazz and Razzle Dazzle. With 6 Tony, 2 Olivier, 1 Grammy, 2 Bafta and 6 Academy Awards, CHICAGO truly is “The sharpest, slickest show on the block” The Times

A nightclub singer, a double-murderess, a smooth-talking lawyer and a cell block of sin: it would be a crime to miss it.

MON 10 – SAT 15 OCTOBER 2016

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