Touring – reviewed at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London
New Wimbledon Theatre presented the latest touring production of the “sleek and sassy” successful West End musical Chicago. Set in the heart of 1920s America, the inner moral compass has virtually vanished, underground clubs are a common part of the social landscape and literally anything goes.
Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) finds herself in prison standing trial for the inconvenience shooting of her latest lover Fred Casely (Joel Benjamin). Once inside the doors she soon learns that doing the crime doesn’t necessarily mean she will have to do the time. Velma (Djalenga Scott) whose double murder charge wins her the “top dog” position inside the women’s prison is threatened by the fame-hungry Roxie and the battle to see who can woo the press and be acquitted first begins.
Watching the power struggle between the rivals is slick and entertaining. However, they are also in competition for the attention of Matron “Mama” Morton (Sheila Ferguson) whoever can win over the public and press brings her more notoriety as an outstanding prison boss. Although we know they are both guilty and inside of murder their abundance of talent, charisma and charm find you rooting for them to be cleared of all charges and get back out onto the stage performing where they belong.
Famous classical tenor Russell Watson joins the cast in the role of the sleazy corrupt lawyer Billy Flynn. With outstanding vocal performance, he was every bit the sleazy celebrity lawyer you would expect to see. Who obtains impressive results inside the courtroom for his clients and manages to clear those who are blatantly guilty of their crimes in front of a jury.
Choreographer Gary Chryst (original choreographer Ann Reinking) re-creates the passion and atmospheric allure you would expect to find inside a 1920s showgirl venue. The ensemble precision and attention to detail are superb. Plus for me anyone who can perform the splits is extremely impressive yet to see several dancers do them in sync was fabulous.
The orchestra dominates a large proportion of the staging, doubling up at times at part of the stage for the cast to perform upon. Musical director Andrew Hilton’s performance at times became part of the Musical. Adding another dimension to the mesmerising visual achievement.
The music alone is one of the draws for watching Chicago from the toe-tapping famous songs “All That Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle”. My favourite number is “Cell Block Tango” which introduces the ladies and their crimes who are residing in the prison.