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Review of Chicago The Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre

CHICAGO - Hayley Tamaddon as 'Roxie Hart' John Partridge as 'Billy Flynn' and Sam Bailey as 'Mama Morton' Image by Dewynters
CHICAGO – Hayley Tamaddon as ‘Roxie Hart’ John Partridge as ‘Billy Flynn’ and Sam Bailey as ‘Mama Morton’ Image by Dewynters

After 46 years since its Broadway debut, Chicago the Musical still never fails to impress with its jazz hands and Fosse feet. I’m sure when Bob Fosse first co-authored the book (alongside Fred Ebb) and choreographed this musical, that he could never predict that in 2016 it would still be as compelling and entertaining for audiences of today.

Only in it’s second week of it’s UK tour it was nice to see that each one of the 1,670 seats at the New Wimbledon Theatre was taken, something which is always pleasing – who doesn’t love a packed out theatre?

When the overture started, I was somewhat disappointed. I couldn’t fault the enthusiasm and humor that Musical Director Ben Atkinson and his orchestra brought to the show, but there didn’t seem any richness or fullness to this well known score, it felt very empty and ‘tinny’ – as if it was missing a few players. However, I got over this as soon as the very sexy Sophie Carmen-Jones (Velma Kelly) started singing ‘All That Jazz’ alongside the faultless ensemble. Special mention has to be given to the male ensemble (too many to highlight individually) that obviously worked meticulously to perfect the strong, gesture-full unison that Chicago is known for. Fosse would’ve been proud.

John Partridge plays the ever so charming, smooth talker ‘Billy Flynn’ a role that suits Partridge. Although he was only in the Celebrity Big Brother house just a short while ago, this didn’t impede his role as he gave a well-rehearsed, very polished performance.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed by Hayley Tamaddon’s portrayal of ‘Roxie Hart’ – at first irritating (maybe nervous?), although she had calmed down by the second act where her American accent got better and she was a little more relaxed. Having had everyone from Chita Rivera to Gwen Verdon to Ruthie Henshall and Maria Friedman playing the role of Roxie Hart, I suppose Tamaddon has big shoes to fill. In one way she does make the role her own, I’m just not sure how successful it is.

A stand out performance goes to A D Richardson whose interpretation of ‘Mary Sunshine’ is first class. Additionally, I cannot possibly ruin the surprise element to this character – but it’s certainly something to look out for.

Sam Bailey plays a very butch (but likeable) ‘Matron Mama Morton’. Having being a Prison Guard before her X Factor fame, Bailey has first hand experience being ‘on the inside’ but this role was almost made for Bailey. Her super-strong voice is another highlight that cannot be missed, as is the impeccable duet ‘Class’ she sings with jailbird ‘Velma Kelly’.

Many people know the 2002 film directed by Rob Marshall and starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger inside out, but you certainly cant compare the film and musical as they are very different on multiple levels, it was nice though to hear in the bar after the show a woman exclaim “I thought it was going to be like the film, but it’s better” – a well deserved appraisal – but something I cannot agree with.

Overall, a great show with some stand out performances. Who doesn’t love a sexy, sassy and attitude filled show? The ensemble cannot be praised highly enough as they keep the show running smoothly. Chicago the Musical is certainly not a show to be missed.

4 stars

Review by Benjamin Wainwright

“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, tours the UK beginning February 2016. The UK tour stars EastEnders actor John Partridge (Cats, A Chorus Line, Miss Saigon, Starlight Express) as Billy Flynn, Dancing on Ice winner and Coronation Street star Hayley Tamaddon (Emmerdale, Grease, Mamma Mia!) as Roxie Hart, and X Factor winner and real life prison warden Sam Bailey as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton.

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.

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Review of Chicago The Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre
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Interview with Amra-Faye Wright: Velma Kelly in Chicago The Musical
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