Nothing says excitement like a rambunctious, prohibition-era musical centered around murder and corruption! This is what Chicago: The Musical is all about, and I couldn’t be happier to have it return to London’s West End. The cast does a knockout job of bringing the story to life, and the music helps to heighten the vibrant yet morose atmosphere of the story.
Chicago brings Martin Kemp to the West End in the form of Billy Flynn, the smooth-talking lawyer who can win any trial, no matter how heinous the crime. Martin remains as likeable as always, and though he’s not much of a singer, he harnesses his fantastic acting skills and magnetic personality to keep the crowd pleased.
The real stars of the show in this production, however, are Josefina Gabrielle and Sarah Soetaert, who play Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, respectively. They showcase their skills as actresses, singers, and dancers, bringing out the cunning personalities of their murderous characters while nailing every note and sticking to the masterful choreography. The two actresses work together to successfully bring out the humour, sadism, and unspoken rivalry between the characters.
The choreography, by the way, is headed by Bob Fosse, the original choreographer from 1975’s run in the West End. He really shows his expertise in this iteration. Fosse brings back the feeling of his original work of art but adds some new twists and design elements that give Chicago a fresh new look.
The costumes are on point, helping to establish the atmosphere of 1920s Chicago – dark and gritty, but at the same time beautiful, sexy and exciting. The cast dons the proper attire to represent the flappers, gangsters, and laymen of the time. The contrast of light and dark and drab and colourful really work on the stage of the Phoenix Theatre.
As in any musical, the music is one of the most important things and the key focus. The band does an excellent job of playing the classic jazz songs that help put Chicago on the map. In fact, one of the most impressive parts of the entire play comes when the brass section alone opens up the second act. The musicians are top-notch and help elevate this play to a whole new level. The audience was thoroughly impressed by the well-known renditions of All That Jazz and Razzle Dazzle. The entire musical catalogue is performed above expectations and really brings the play together.
Overall, Chicago is a show worthy of your attention. Whether you are a lifelong fan of the original or have never experienced it before, you will find yourself enthralled with the music, acting, and dancing. Elements of the original play shine through for the old-timers. However, this is not a play that has become stale, as the cast and crew add new twists and tricks that will have you engaged throughout the entirety of the story.