With brilliant music and lyrics from Kander and Ebb, which are exquisitely interpreted through Bob Fosse’s choreography, you know Chicago is always going to be a good night out. And this touring show coming through Bromley does not disappoint, writes Michael Holland.
‘Murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery… all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts’ is how we are introduced to this show, because Chicago is about the real life women in jail for killing their boyfriends and husbands during the Prohibition Era, and in Cell Block Tango we hear some of the ways they died: He ran on to my knife ten times; he was allergic to arsenic; the last thing I remember before I blacked out was seeing him with my sister…
But Mama Morton (Sinitta), who runs the jail, knows a good lawyer who can get the girls off with a self-defence plea – but it costs. And that crooked lawyer, Billy Flynn (Darren Day), likes to take the high-profile cases, so erstwhile Number One inmate Velma is soon side-lined for Roxy Hart when she is locked up for murder, and both of them are quickly forgotten when a rich socialite’s daughter gets banged up. It’s a dog eat dog world in there and Roxie and Velma have to team up to get noticed and get a trial date.
The true Chicago story is about the sleaze and corruption played out in the tabloids of the day, which reeks as much as the sleaze and corruption in our newspapers today. But all that truth is swept aside under Jazz hands and dancing and songs to die for. Plus, all the dancers, from the inmates, to the reporters, to the Prison Warden are all looking good, which helps to take your mind off the bad news.
The band are a huge part of the enjoyment, and there are tremendous performances from Djalenga Scott (Velma) and Faye Brookes (Roxie), and caps off to those in charge of choreography who make sure that the spirit of Fosse is never far away with his iconic silhouettes constantly dropping in as a reminder of what he gave to the show. But Chicago is very much an ensemble piece and its greatness comes from everyone giving it everything, every night, that makes this musical such a joy to see.
Churchill Theatre, Bromley High Street, BR1 1HA until November 27th. Times: 8pm; Wed & Sat matinee 2.30pm. Admission: £30.50 – £56.50.
Booking: 0343 310 0020 – www.churchilltheatre.co.uk
Photos: Tristram Kenton