REVIEW: Sam Bailey slays Southend as Mamma Morton in CHICAGO is the 1920’s inspired musical based on the stories of female murderes in a Chicago prison. Velma Kelly is the talk of the town after killing her sister and her boyfriend after finding them in bed together. But as with any hot news topic, the newspapers are always on the look out for a new story and they find it in Roxie Hart who murders her lover for trying to end their affair. These ladies have dreamed of a life on the Vaudeville stage and instead of fearing for their lives as their trials approach, they are more interested in getting headline tours arranged for when they are released and can use their new found fame to fulfil the lives they always dreamed of. But will interest in these ladies fizzle out before their trials are over or can they find ways to keep their names in the press until their release from prison. Assuming they don’t get given the death penalty that is!

Chicago has been running on Broadway for eighteen years and closed in London’s West End four years ago after a huge run of fifteen years. Now the show is back with a UK Tour and three huge TV stars in the lead roles.

Hayley Tamaddon (Emmerdale/Corrination Street) was unfortunately not able to perform at this performance I saw in Southend. Instead the role of Roxie Hart was played by Lindsey Tierney who did a great job and looked like it was a role she had been playing her whole life. John Partridge (Eastenders/A Chorus Line/Cats) gave a sleazy portrayal of corrupt lawyer Billy Flynn and gave 100% of himself to his performance. It was however X Factor winner Sam Bailey who stole the show as the feisty jail warden Mamma Morton (a role soon to be played by Eastenders star Jessie Wallace). Sam embodies her character fully, oozing charisma and belting out one number after the other with a raspy growl in her voice. It is no surprise that she is able to act as a prison warden as that was her job before she auditioned for X Factor back in 2013.

A strong performance all round from the ensemble of talented dancers which really make Chicago the incredible show it is. With no set and just just the live orchestra on stage, Chicago is a statement musical that proves you don’t need a fancy set and elaborate costumes in order to make a show a success. Chicago believes in itself and the music and story are what have kept this show alive for more than forty years.

A brilliant show and a brilliant cast. I have seen many productions of this over the years and this version is certainly up there with the best.

Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Catherine Ashmore

CHICAGO is touring the UK until December 2016 with Jessie Wallace taking over from Sam Bailey on 15 August 2016. Dates and tickets