The show that has been on everybody's lips for close to 50 years has always been Chicago. Never far away from a stage, it is now back in the UK as part of an extensive tour. Considering the name of my website is made up of two songs from the show, it seemed only right that I caught the tour for a review. But did this production dazzle me?
Unless you've been in prison for the last 47 years, you should know about Chicago but just in case - it first premiered on Broadway in 1975 and in the West End in 1979. Revived multiple times, it is the longest running American musical in Broadway and West End history. Set in 1920s Chicago (funnily enough), it tells the story of Roxie Hart - a housewife who ends up in jail after murdering her lover. It is there where she meets Velma Kelly, Mama Morton and a host of other women who have plenty in common with Roxie.
Chicago is known for star casting and this touring production is no exception. Faye Brookes leaves behind the cobbles of Coronation Street to lead the production as Roxie - the right mix of sweet and charming, she has her fellow castmates and the audience eating out the palm of her hand as she commands the stage. Three Degrees legend Sheila Ferguson delivers powerful vocals as Mama Morton but while she gives a commanding performance, she couldn't quite reach the level of her fellow cast members when it comes to acting ability.
You may be more used to seeing Russell Watson on a very different stage but he is an absolute standout as Billy Flynn showing the talent in him goes far beyond his distinctive and incredible vocals. Jamie Baughan is an undoubtedly highlight as an extremely loveable Amos Hart who wins the audiences sympathy throughout the show, while Dajalenga Scott is utterly scene-stealing in a star turn as Velma Kelly, having the time of her life and delivering some of the best vocals of the night in her big numbers.
It's not just the main players that fill the stage with fantastic performances - a show with such precise dancing and performances such as Chicago requires a top notch ensemble, and this delivers that in spades. Tanisha Mae-Brown, Billie Hardy and Hollie Jane Stephens all absolutely kill it on the stage as does every single person in that amazing cast.
You can't talk about Chicago without mentioning the iconic choreography from Bob Fosse. Instantly recognisable and distinctive in style, it is replicated here from Ann Reinking who added Fosse inspired choreography in the 1996 revival which remains to this day. Numbers like 'Cell Block Tango' and 'All That Jazz' are already imprinted on your brain even if this is your first viewing of the show - such is the impact and influence of these numbers across all different mediums. Seeing it as intended in Chicago was glorious to watch.
In the decades since Chicago first debuted, the numbers in the show have been so widespread, you're never more than a few minutes away from a well loved song. Expertly crafted by John Kander and Fred Ebb, 'Razzle Dazzle', 'When You're Good To Mama', 'Roxie' and 'Mister Cellophane' were all performed masterfully, 'We Both Reached For The Gun' was an absolute standout while the aforementioned 'All That Jazz' and 'Cell Block Tango' were two of the greatest sequences I have seen performed on a stage in recent years. All performed by a wonderful orchestra led by Musical Director Andrew Hilton, the Entr'acte itself was a huge highlight.
Some shows run the risk of getting stale when they have been performed as much as Chicago. This is not a problem here - the familiarity of the songs, choreography and the show itself only adds to its brilliance. Despite my websites name, the last time I saw the show I wasn't a huge fan. However, I was completely won over by this production - maybe my taste has changed since I last saw it (It most definitely has) or maybe this is just a fabulous production that I couldn't help but fall in love with. Its classic set, iconic numbers and all that jazz performed by a truly fabulous cast meant I was well and truly dazzled.
Chicago will be painting a town near you across the UK until July 2022 with full dates and tickets at https://chicagothemusical.com/international-tour/
Photos by Tristram Kenton