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Chicago The Musical

| Theatre | 25/04/2018

Chicago: The Musical © The Phoenix Theatre

Sandip Kana, What’s On London reviewer

Despite good performances from much of the cast, Walter Bobbie’s new incarnation of the frank and funny classic lacks a slice of razzle dazzle.

It would be difficult not to have noticed the large array of promotional posters across London heralding the return of Chicago, pitted as one of the West End’s ‘must see’ musicals.  But although there are a number of commendable aspects to this production, overall it is disappointingly flat compared to previous stellar iterations.

The story – by now well-known – concerns Roxie Hart, the devious chorus girl who commits murder and then attempts to avoid the hangman’s noose.  Set in 1920s Chicago, the tale heavily deploys the stylish imagery of that city’s past – fusing gangster chic with a finger-clicking jazz tempo – while remaining relevant to today’s obsessions with fame and fortune.  Roxie lusts over newspaper headlines and – once the murder of her lover becomes yesterday’s news – soon finds herself teaming up with another fame-seeking killer, Velma Kelly, to form a touring sister act.

Chicago: The Musical © Tristram KentonWhen the show debuted way back in 1975, it received a mixed response before slowly establishing itself as a frank and funny musical phenomenon.

The story and music both stand the test of time, but this version – directed by Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Ann Reinking – lacks razzle dazzle, making for disjointed and at times sluggish viewing.

That’s not solely down to the cast.  Josefina Gabrielle (as Velma Kelly) displays attitude and shines through some impressive dance numbers, while Sarah Soetaert is a likeable Roxie Hart, bringing humour to the stage.

Chicago: The Musical © Tristram KentonBut Cuba Gooding Jr – on whom most of the headlines centred when Bobbie’s cast was announced – gives a a somewhat lacklustre performance in the role of Hart’s sharp lawyer, Billy Flynn.

This is particularly disappointing given Gooding Jr’s talents and the gamut of moving, triumphant and emotionally entertaining performances the celebrated Hollywood star has delivered on television, film and stage over a long period.

However, the combination of Gooding Jr and Chicago will no doubt drive crowds into Phoenix Theatre based on reputation alone and those who do buy tickets will enjoy some undeniably amusing and enjoyable high-points.  That only goes to show that – despite this production falling short of a very high bar – Chicago remains a ‘must see’ musical.  Just not necessarily this version.

Chicago The Musical is being performed at Phoenix Theatre until 6th October 2018, although Cuba Gooding Jr. will only appear until 30th July.  For tickets, head here.  All images courtesy of Tristram Kenton.

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