This high-kicking, side-splitting, production is so slick and sexy it has steam coming off it – and it absolutely hit the right spot with its Blackpool audience on opening night.
High-energy and glamorous, this tightly choreographed show used every single space on the Opera House stage to showcase the red-hot cast as they run through the story of murder, mayhem, adultery and treachery, in the decadence of 1920s Chicago.
It’s impossible to take your eyes of the stunning and impossibly multi-talented stars, with Faye Brooks (Coronation Street/Dancing on ice) perfect as the duplicitous Roxie Hart and the elegant Djalenga Scott (Annie, West Side Story) as the equally ruthless Velma Kelly – these two bounce off each other perfectly in both personality and voice. Standout moments go to Brenda Edwards, (Loose Women, X Factor), who is an absolute riot as Mama Morton, matron of the Cook County Jail – this combination of musicality and humour is hard to nail and she absolutely lifts the roof off.
Let’s be honest, Chicago is really about the fierce women, but Lee Mead (Joseph, Holby City, Wicked) certainly hits the right notes and nails the hypocrisy of his character Billy Flynn, who will do anything to make a buck and Jamie Baughan as Amos Hart (Roxie’s ignored husband) hit the feels with his rendition of Mr Cellophane.
But this is very much a full company production - everyone works all the time – and if they put a foot wrong I missed it. The orchestra is not hidden away but centre stage and a critical part of the show with characters moving through and interacting with the musicians with the stage transforming from speakeasy bar to jail through this ingenious setup.
Of course, it’s absolutely possible to watch this show and come away with a high from the dance and song alone – but if you listen carefully there’s a much darker side to the production. This is the story of housewife and nightclub dancer Roxie Hart who murders her lover, then dupes the public and the media to turn her crime into the fame she always craved. My advice would listen carefully for the one liners placed in song and speech that makes its commentary on the ‘business of murder’ just as relevant today.
The asides on the media (ouch) and the public’s insatiable need to prey upon other’s misdeeds and misery touch a nerve that will have you laughing, and crying, into your social media feeds and podcasts – not much has really changed.
A genuinely fantastic show and you will come away with songs stuck in your head and a tap in your toes from the killer choreography (and a possible urge to go to the gym).
Full cast: Lee Mead, Faye Brookes,, Djalenga Scott , Jamie Baughan, B.E. Wong, Ishmail Aaron, Michelle Andrews, Gabby Antrobus, Delycia Belgrave, Joel Benjamin, Tanisha-Mae Brown, Daniel Clift, Callum Fitzgerald, Emily Goodenough, Billie Hardy, Aaron Jenkins, Liam Marcellino, Theo Reece, Hollie Jane Stephens and Harrison Wilde.
It runs until July 2 at the Opera House, Winter Gardens Blackpool.