Saturday 24th September

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Rouge your knees and pull your stockings down – Chicago is in town!

| Music, Theatre, Things to do | 24/02/2016

Sophie Carmen Jones slays as Velma Kelly
Sophie Carmen Jones slays as Velma Kelly

“Murder, greed, corruption, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts.”

Remember in 2002, when Catherine Zeta-Jones slid down a well-oiled table in suspenders and bagged herself an Oscar for her performance in Chicago?  I certainly do.  And the only reason I know about the well-oiled table is because I attempted it in my Year 8 English classroom, with painful results ….

Chicago is probably my favourite musical.  Based on true events back in the 1920s, it tells the story of Roxie Hart, who shoots her lover and enlists the help of smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn to free herself from jail.  Along the way, we meet double-murderess Velma Kelly, spicy Matron Mama Morton and blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Amos Hart.  And it’s currently at the New Wimbledon Theatre, before carrying on its tour of the UK.

The mistake people will make is assuming the stage production will match the film.  A lot of the audience unfairly expect to see Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones up there, switching from the jail to a classy jazz club in 0.5 seconds.  But they need to be realistic: yes, the film was amazing, but you have to remember it also had the luxury of being, well, a film.

The setting for this stage show is very different, and the cast a lot smaller.  The superb live band takes up majority of the stage, leaving little room for the cast to move around.  Personally, I would prefer to have seen the actors given that extra bit of space, but I cannot fault the band in the slightest.

The cast certainly hold their own throughout the performance.

Hayley Tamaddon is the sweet, funny Roxie we are supposed to sympathise with, providing some light-hearted relief to what is ultimately a twisted tale of murder and desperation.

John Partridge was a surprising choice for Billy Flynn, but played it brilliantly, and at some points I really did believe that all he cared about was money, I mean love.

Sam Bailey was an odd choice for Mama Morton, who I always perceived to be a sexy, mature woman.  However, although I can’t fault Sam’s voice, her incarnation of Mama Morton unfortunately came across more as a leech in a bad wig.  Still, she only features in two songs, and one of them is a duet.

Finally, let’s talk about Velma Kelly.  When I was younger (and, let’s face it, sometimes even now) I wanted to be Velma Kelly, trying to pull off her slick bob haircut on more than one occasion.  I can’t imagine following Catherine Zeta-Jones’ portrayal would be easy, however let me tell you that Sophie Carmen-Jones was the perfect choice.  As the opening number, All That Jazz, began, I was concerned that she wouldn’t live up the Velma we all know and love.  But within minutes I realised she was going to smash it: everything was on point, from her accent to her dancing, from her hair to her rhinestone shoes.  It was perfection.

The chorus supported the show in every way they could, and really made you feel like you were in a smoky nightclub, sipping on a cold gin as you watched them perform the Cell Block Tango.  I left the theatre singing and trying not to release my jazz hands on the tube home.

Chicago is playing at New Wimbledon Theatre now, before continuing on the UK tour.  Get your tickets now, from:

Hayley Tamaddon as Foxy Roxie Hart, pictured here with John Partridge's smooth Billy Flynn.

Hayley Tamaddon as Foxy Roxie Hart, pictured here with John Partridge’s smooth Billy Flynn.

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