Chicago the musical opened at The Playhouse Theatre tonight bringing to Edinburgh one of the most iconic musicals of the last 40 years or so, and an indication of just how popular this show is with an audience from the very beginning was simply a packed out theatre.
Chicago the musical takes us back to the great jazz era of prohibition 1920s Chicago the city as we follow the story of night-club singer Roxie Hart (Hayley Tamaddon) as she stands trial for the murder of her lover and in the process becomes a media celebrity.
The story behind this musical is based on a true one in the 1920s and was quickly put on stage, but it is the 1970s musical with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and iconic choreography by Bob Fosse that audiences all over the world have fallen in love with – Ann Reinking is choreographer on this production, but that “Fosse atmosphere” is still present.
Roxie Hart as the completely self-interested, fame seeking nightclub singer come murderess is one of the great roles out there for any actress/performer and Hayley Tamaddon does a great job in this role with a portrayal of an at times tough Roxie but always one that is soft enough to make an audience care what happens to her. Of course, some great song and dance numbers too.
Counter-balancing Roxie all the way through prison and to her trial is the equally glamorous, fame seeking vaudeville star and murderess Velma Kelly (Sophie Carmen-Jones) who also gets some iconic song and dance numbers to work her way through in prison.
Guiding all her “girls” is Sam Bailey as Matron “Mama” Morton who for a price will arrange anything they want. A solid performance here from Sam Bailey.
What all the girls really need though is star lawyer Billy Flynn (John Partridge) who for a stellar fee will re-write any story and make sure that justice is proven by a not guilty verdict – guilty or not. John is so obviously having fun here in this role and gets to put in some fine scene stealing lines as well as some great vocal performances.
Standing beside Roxie all through her trial is long suffering husband Amos (Neil Ditt) who in his own words is “unnoticeable”, but we really do get to notice him in the touching “Mister Cellophane”. number.
Chicago pretty much has everything as a musical...iconic songs including “All That Jazz”, “Roxie” and “My Own Best Friend”, great dance numbers and choreography and iconic costume design (William Ivey Long on this production, but keeping that style we all love).
Also of course making that “Chicago” sound, the live band who were very much part of the story all the way through.
Chicago is an interesting piece of work on so many levels. Roxie gets her Andy Warhol “15 minutes of fame” moment, but there is something particularly up to the moment about someone trying to use their notoriety to gain public attention and use the media to re-start a failing stage career.
Does Roxie pay for her crime...I’m not telling you that one, go and see the show for yourself...if there are any tickets left.
Review by Tom King