Theatre Review: Chicago at the Kings Theatre

CHICAGO.-John-Partridge-as-Billy-Flynn.-Photo-by-Catherine-Ashmore

When a programme reads “based on true events”, everything you’re about to see feels as if it’s going to be more intense.

Chicago is based upon the story of Roxie Hart, a shameless woman who shoots her ‘bit on the side’ dead and employs a cunning, smooth-talking lawyer to save her from death row. After various failed attempts at persuading her adoring husband to take the blame, Hart finds herself in jail alongside the notorious Velma Kelly. Kelly is on trial for killing her husband and sister.

On this tour, the millionaire lawyer, Billy Flynn, is played by charisma-infused John Partridge (Eastenders, Cats [1997]) who appeared to lack the level of audience engagement you would expect from this type of role. Partridge, however, did stun the audience with his exceptional vocal abilities when he sustained, perhaps, the longest note in Kings Theatre history. His opposite Hayley Tamaddon offered a surprisingly good rendition of the role of Rita. Tamaddon hit every note even whilst she nailed all of the seductive choreography going – in particular, executing a fantastically well-put-together rendition We Both Reached for the Gun as a ventriloquist’s doll.

There was an audible groan of disappointment when it was announced that Jessie Wallace (also of Eastenders) would not be playing the roll of Matron ‘Mama’ Morton. Her understudy Ellie Mitchell did, however, stun in her rendition of When You’re Good to Mama, one of the musical’s best known hits.

The show itself is known for it’s lively soundtrack. However, what I was not expecting was the band to be on stage during the entire show. This made the show – know for its simplistic stage setting and costumes – truly quite the spectacle. Interjections from the band’s conductor, Ben Atkinson, were welcomed and appreciated, and it would be a shame not to mention the band’s fantastic performance of Entr’acte at the beginning of Act II. When the band did an encore of Entr’acte at the closing of the show, I have never anticipated a tuba’s dance moves so much.

The entire production of Chicago was incredibly tight with scene changes happening almost instantly. Even where there was potential for long, over-hanging applauses, the company kept the production moving so that the audience were already prepared to view the next spectacle by the end of the applause.

Some of my personal highlights of the show included Cell Block Tango, We Both Reached for the Gun and Mister Cellophane.

I could not recommend this show enough.

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