Monday, 24 October 2016

REVIEW: Chicago at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Chicago is a musical which the world has adored for many years. Brought to the masses in the Academy Award winning film (2002) starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellwegger and Richard Gere, this show is all about murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts… and so begins the international award winning Broadway and West End musical, Chicago!

Originally choreographed, directed and written by Bob Fosse (1927-1987), this musical is renowned for its super clean-cut movement, energy and choreography. Movements like the twirling of a finger, the batting of an eyelid, the dipping of a shoulder in sequences and various combinations, as Fosse envisioned, make this show truly unique.

This touring cast is very impressive indeed. In a TV soap lover’s dream, this show stars Hayley Tamaddon (Emmerdale, Coronation Street) as Roxie Hart, John Partridge (Eastenders) as Billy Flynn and Jessie Wallace (Eastenders) as Mama Morton. Tamaddon is all-round excellent, Partridge is charismatic and impressive, and Wallace exceeded all expectations in this meaty role. In the role of Velma Kelly is the less known Sophie Carmen-Jones who is undoubtedly the star of the show. The ensemble are incredibly strong, particularly the six “merry-murderesses” who are all fabulous, with special mentions to Emily Warner and Chelsea Labadini for their outstanding dancing.

The orchestra are featured in the middle of the stage on an elevated platform, and can be seen throughout the entirety of the show. They are lead by the most charismatic Musical Director of all time – Leon Charles, who conducted the most enthusiastic ent’acte and curtain call of all time. It was nothing short of epic and has to be seen to be believed. However, while Charles is a wonderful silver lining, there is still a dark cloud present… Due to the placement of the orchestra, the stage is not used to its full potential. There is creative use of ladders on either side, but other than that, this show does feel stunted and quite static. Similarly, while I’m fully aware Chicago isn’t a “costume” show (i.e. Phantom of the Opera and its Masquerade, or Wicked with One Short Day), besides a few feather fans and a pair of gloves, the black mesh and lace outfits were all … well… a little bit boring. The spectacle I was expecting just never arrived.

While the cast of this show are good, this show left much to be desired as it all felt a little tired. The “hot-cha”, “woopie”, and all that jazz which makes this show so spectacular does fall flat in this tour, and I left disappointed. It has some fantastic moments, and the vocals are great, but as a fully fledged touring musical with the kind of reputation it’s earned, I expected a lot more.
If you'd have been there, if you'd have seen it, I betcha you would have said the same!

Review by Harriet Langdown 

Rating: ★★★
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