Chicago @ The Lyceum
Though written in the 1970s, the core of modern classic Chicago still bears relevance today. Telling a satirical story of how you can get away with murder as long as you ‘razzle dazzle’, the message strangely rings true with today’s celebrity-obsessed society.
Chicago tells the story of fame-hungry Roxie Hart, who’s having an affair with furniture salesmen Fred Casely, under the pretence that Fred can get her an act on the stage. When this does not go ahead, Roxie shoots him dead and ends up in prison. There she meets seasoned performer Velma Kelly, who killed her husband and sister for having an affair. The two share slimeball lawyer Billy Flynn, and Velma and Roxie fight each other for his attention and the attention of the press.
Boasting a “star cast” consisting of ex-Dancing on Ice star Hayley Tamaddon, ex Eastenders actor John Partridge, and X Factor’s Sam Bailey, this production of Chicago fails to live up to its previous productions. The cast are sub-par. Tamaddon’s interpretation of Roxie Hart is somewhat a caricature, resulting in an irritating performance and making the character completely unlikable. Sophie Carmen-Jones completely upstages her as Velma Kelly, displaying just the right amount of vamp and flirtatiousness. John Partridge certainly captures the sliminess of Billy Flynn, but his vocals and general performance often ended up flat. Sam Bailey playing Mama Morton makes good use of her lungs belting out her two numbers with ease. She’s clearly an audience favourite, gaining applause before she even mutters her first line. But overall the characters are difficult to relax into and do not live up to the promise of an all-star cast.
The overall production is what really lets Chicago down. I can see what they’re trying to achieve by stripping it back with a relatively bare stage and minimal costume, but what’s so exciting about Chicago is the glitz and glamour. Taking this away leaves it just too bare and fails to reignite audience interest in each scene. The dancers are remarkable though and the choreography is so on-point with the original vision of Chicago. The band, who are present on stage, create most of the ambience with the lively score and performance.
Overall, Chicago is a little underwhelming. Using more experienced theatre performers rather than ex-soap stars could have delivered a better overall cast performance. Simple things we come to expect with touring productions such as set and costume changes could have made the show much more dynamic. There were points where the show lifted, mostly Sophie Carmen-Jones’ moments. However, overall, it did not provide any real ‘razzle dazzle’.
Words by Emily Beaumont.