Ask any of the chickies in my pen, they’ll tell you I’m the biggest Chicago fan – so I was excited to finally catch the latest UK Tour in Bromley this week starring Darren Day (Billy Flynn), Sinitta Malone (Mama Morton), Faye Brooks (Roxie) and Djalenga Scott (Velma).
Chicago tells the true story of Chicago in 1924, a time where jazz and liquor-filled the air. A news reporter was sent to cover the trials of a dozen women on death row for murder and her experiences were turned into a play. Once she died, composers Kander and Ebb took to show and turned it into the musical we know and love today featuring songs like ‘All That Jazz’, ‘Cell Block Tango’ and ‘We Both Reached For The Gun’.
Roxie Hart is put on trial for killing her boyfriend after he tried to walk out on her (the louse). She enlists the help of lawyer Billy Flynn to set her free but soon the idea that she could become a celebrity star on the vaudeville circuit, overshadows the fact she is potentially facing the death penalty for her crime and a battle commences between two inmates to stay the most relevant in the media, in the hope of being famous when they are released.
I’ve seen Chicago more times than I care to admit, around the world in London, New York, and even a French production in Paris. And it has always been consistently good – which is why this production left me sadly disappointed.
The downfall is the direction. Little things that have been done in every production I have seen were missed. Like when Velma talks about finding her husband in bed with her sister, ‘doing number seventeen, the spread-eagle’, every actress I’ve ever seen play the role opens her legs to emphasise the point – but not here. In Mama Morton’s solo there was no big deceptive laugh and later on during the song ‘I Can’t Do It Alone’ when Velma is trying to talk Roxie into performing her old double act with her, she pretends to spin imaginary plates and then kick them off one by one but in this version, she doesn’t say the words to what she’s doing which would be confusing to anyone who had not seen the show before.
Joel Montague gives a wonderful portrayal as devoted husband Amos. However, the rest of the principal cast just didn’t quite seem right to me. There were issues with vocal projection and some of the acting was questionable. It just didn’t feel like perfect casting to me. The ensemble however, gave a fossie-tastic performance, that the man himself would be proud of but on the whole I felt like the whole show needed a bit more love put into it.
Reviewed by West End Wilma