How else would we kick off our regional theatre for 2022 but with the touring production of Chicago at The Alexandra Theatre Birmingham.
The show is a personal favourite of both of ours, having seen Chicago a few times on its previous tours and in the West End in 2018. We are always interested to see new versions of the show in hope that we find our perfect production of this iconic musical.
Based on Maurine Dallas Watkins 1926 play of the same name, Chicago tells the story of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two wannabe vaudeville stars and murderers who find themselves imprisoned together in Cook County jail. They both fight each other for popularity and fame, assisted by corrupt prison guard Mama Morton and crooked lawyer Billy Flynn. With a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander, Chicago premiered in 1975. The 1996 Broadway revival of Chicago was choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse, directed by Walter Bobbie, and produced by Barry and Fran Weissler. Chicago originally ran in London for 15 years, making it the West End’s longest-running revival.
This touring production with re-creation of Original Direction by Stacey Haynes and Re-creation of Original Choreography by Gary Chryst glistens as the audience are welcomed into the infamous Cook County Jail with a cast smouldering in sultry costumes (Costume Design – William Ivey Long). With a spectacular orchestra centre stage, led by Musical Director Andrew Hilton, the audience are immediately immersed into the glitz, glamour and raunchiness of the Chicago production.
This was the first time watching this show where I fell instantly in love with both leading ladies. Djalenga Scott (Velma Kelly) and Faye Brookes (Roxie Hart) have really captured the chemistry that I have been looking for in Velma and Roxie. Both were strong, charismatic and powerful alone and together they created an indestructible duo. Alongside them we have the silver tongued Billy Flynn played with the right amount of charm by Darren Day and Sinitta Malone gave an expected vulnerability to the character of Matron ‘Mama’ Morton. One of my favourite songs in the show is Mister Cellophane and Joel Montague gave a captivating performance as Amos Hart as the audience rallied behind the invisible character.
Although the production doesn’t appear to have changed much from the last time we caught it on tour, the production did introduce a fresh energy which came from the motivated talented ensemble.
This was a vibrant touring production of a popular musical that quite obviously hasn’t lost its charm as demonstrated by the rapturous applause by the packed out Monday Birmingham audience. If you already love Chicago then this might not bring you anything new but it is guaranteed to make you smile and for new fans of the show, you are in for a night of show stopping songs, jazz and a little bit of murder.
We say: “This vibrant touring production of Chicago is guaranteed to leave you with permanent jazz hands”