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Chicago The Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

In June 1988, Bob Dylan set off on what has become known as “The Never-Ending Tour” and apart from a break due to the pandemic, it’s still going 34 years later. Well, that title could also be applied to the Kander & Ebb musical Chicago which seems to have been on tour in the UK forever and now post-covid, it’s off on its travels again taking in something like 11 theatres between now and July and it all started last night at the New Theatre Wimbledon.

CHICAGO. Faye Brookes 'Roxie Hart' and The Company. Photo Tristram Kenton.
CHICAGO. Faye Brookes ‘Roxie Hart’ and The Company. Photo Tristram Kenton.

Based on a 1926 play by Maureen Dallas Watkins about real-life murderers and trials, Chicago tells in a vaudeville revue setting, the story of Roxie Hart, a wannabe vaudevillian star who murders her lover and is arrested, despite her attempts to convince her pushover husband, Amos Hart, to lie for her. In the jail, Roxie meets her hero, the famous double-murderess and nightclub performer Velma Kelly. When both acquire the same lawyer, the greedy and lustful Billy Flynn, tensions come to a head as they vie for the spotlight.

Now a new generation (and some old ones) of theatregoers around the country will get the chance to see this amazing musical live at a theatre near them and they’ll be in for a treat. The five main characters need to be strong as there’s a lot going on stage behind them.

There’s the ten-piece band who at times are part of the action with Musical Director Andrew Hilton mugging it up – he even has a speaking part. Then there’s the amazing ensemble of dancers and singers wearing very little and performing Bob Fosse’s iconic, sexy choreography splendidly. They’re all arms and legs and they leave very little to the imagination as they strut their stuff to Kander and Ebb’s fabulous music – it’s all vigorous, kinetic energy for the entire show – there’s no set so there’s nowhere for anyone to hide. In front of them, the lead actors need a lot of charisma and star quality and the main cast has it in spades. Russell Watson as Billy Flynn applies all his operatic flair to the part of the slimy, manipulative lawyer. Sheila Ferguson has the meaty role of Mama Morton and really gets her teeth into it and Jamie Baughan as Amos Hart is perfect as Roxie’s put-upon husband who no one seems to see. Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly is all legs and smiles as she gyrates around the stage almost hitting the top of the proscenium arch with her high kicks. Judy Garland lookalike Faye Brookes is wonderful as Roxie Hart – her comedy timing is spot-on.

They both sing superbly and are the perfect foils as the story develops. One of the stand-out moments of the show is B E Wong as Mary Sunshine who conjures up the falsetto of Tiny Tim (of “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” fame) and is a revelation at the “things aren’t what they seem” moment in Act 2.

Chicago is an unstoppable juggernaut and it’s just a wonderful theatrical happening that every lover of musicals should experience at least once in their lifetime. The superb songs just keep coming – who can resist tapping their toes to “All That Jazz”, “When You’re Good To Mama”, “Mister Cellophane” and of course “Razzle Dazzle”. It’s not the greatest book in the world but it doesn’t matter as it’s all about the songs and the choreography. Although it’s now over 45 years old, it will resonate with today’s audience as it satirises the quest for fame at almost any price – something YouTubers and influencers know all about.

So, if you want a great night out, then Chicago is coming your way. Go and treat yourself to some theatrical Viagra courtesy of an excellent cast and an amazing group of sensual dancers and enjoy all that jazz.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, CHICAGO is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today’s tabloid.

TUESDAY 17 MAY – SATURDAY 21 MAY 2022
New Wimbledon Theatre
Faye Brookes as Roxie Hart & Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly.

MONDAY 23 MAY – SATURDAY 28 MAY 2022
Manchester Opera House
Faye Brookes – Roxie Hart & Djalenga Scott – Velma Kelly.

TUESDAY 31 MAY – SATURDAY 4 JUNE 2022
Sunderland Empire
Faye Brookes – Roxie Hart & Djalenga Scott – Velma Kelly.

MONDAY 6 JUNE – SATURDAY 11 JUNE 2022
Grand Opera House, Belfast
www.goh.co.uk
Faye Brookes – Roxie Hart & Djalenga Scott – Velma Kelly.

TUESDAY 14 JUNE – SATURDAY 18 JUNE 2022
Theatre Royal, Plymouth
www.theatreroyal.com
Faye Brookes – Roxie Hart & Djalenga Scott – Velma Kelly.

MONDAY 20 JUNE – SATURDAY 25 JUNE 2022
New Theatre, Cardiff
www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk
Faye Brookes – Roxie Hart & Djalenga Scott – Velma Kelly.

TUESDAY 5 JULY – SATURDAY 9 JULY 2022
Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk
Faye Brookes – Roxie Hart & Djalenga Scott – Velma Kelly.

MONDAY 11 JULY – SATURDAY 16 JULY 2022
Theatre Royal, Norwich
www.norwichtheatre.org
Faye Brookes – Roxie Hart & Djalenga Scott – Velma Kelly.

MONDAY 18 JULY – SATURDAY 23 JULY 2022
New Theatre Oxford
Faye Brookes – Roxie Hart & Djalenga Scott – Velma Kelly

MONDAY 25 JULY – SATURDAY 30 JULY 2022
Venue Cymru, Llandudno
www.venuecymru.co.uk
Faye Brookes – Roxie Hart & Djalenga Scott – Velma Kelly.

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1 thought on “Chicago The Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre | Review”

  1. Andrew Clayton

    Saw this in Wimbledon last night absolutely fantastic. The best version ever seen the whole cast were awesome

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