Chicago is back in the West End, with slick lawyer Billy Flyn being played by Cuba Gooding Junior and Ruthie Henshall, who played Roxie Hart in the original London company, taking on the role of Matron Mama Morton. There are no dud parts in this sparkling satire on corruption and celebrity criminals but the real star of this production is the thirteen piece jazz band with their sultry brass and irresistible rhythms. Combined with witty lyrics and deliciously cynical story, you can’t go too far wrong with this show.
Set in 1920’s Chicago, Illinois, it’s based on a play written at the time, about real female criminals. Kander and Ebb’s musical however, is almost hyper-real, presented in the form of a Brechtian Vaudeville, densly packed with hit numbers including ‘All that Jazzz’, ‘Cell Block Tango’ and ‘Celophane’. It premiered in 1975, when ground-breaking choreographer, Bob Fosse produced and directed it. The current production is virtually unchanged from the hugely successful version that opened in London in the mid nineties. The good news, is, it looks as sharp and slick now as it did twenty years ago.
Roxie Hart is played with cheeky, manipulative charm by Sarah Soetaert. After shooting her lover, she hits the headlines and seizes the opportunity to find the fame she always craved. Velma Kelly (Josefina Gabrille) is enraged as she steals her trial date and publicity but when a younger murderess commits an even more horrific crime, they realise a double act is the only solution. A D Richardson gives a stand-out performance as cross-dressing Mary Sunshine with a stunning rendition of ‘A Little bit of Good.’ As for Cuba Gooding Junior – though exciting to see him in the flesh, I think it’s fair to say he sparkles more on screen. Getting into his stride in the second half the truth is he just doesn’t have the vocal ease to pull off show-stoppers like ‘All I care about is Love’ and ‘Razzle Dazzle ‘em.’
Chicago is so dark and cynical, it’s the kind of musical that even appeals to those who claim they hate musicals. If you already know and love it, it’s the kind of score you really cant hear too many times.
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