Chicago at the Manchester Opera House
Chicago is a darkly funny musical which is far ahead of its time. It explores the concept of celebrity and fame for notorious reasons, as opposed to that of a movie star or a singer. Sadly, the casting has often tended to go down the route of casting names over talent – with the likes of Gaby Roslin, Marti Pellow and others treading the boards, in order to get bums on seats.
But, never fear because the current touring cast is one of the best I have seen in years. Hayley Tamaddon pushes aside her underwritten role as Andrea in Coronation Street and blows her away, as the conniving Roxie Hart. She is one of the best Roxies I have seen in years, as she plays her with genuine relish. She has all of the Bob Fosse moves and has a voice like honey and her comic timing is spot on.
West End star Sophie Carmen Jones as Velma Kelly is sardonic, leggy and has stage presence to burn; capturing Velma’s fame hungry passions with ease. John Partridge is a seasoned West end performer and he is completely at home here. Often Billy Flynn has rarely been able to dance, due to the restrictions of the well-known actor who has often played him. Here, John kicks them all into touch. His Billy Flynn is crafty, has a cheeky smirk can hit the high notes and razzle dazzle ‘em in a chorus line.
Sam Bailey leaves X Factor behind and proves why people voted for her; her strong vocals and her husky voice suits the burly prison warden, perfectly. Unfortunately, her acting is limited and at times, it feels like she is simply saying the lines, not feeling them.
One of my favourite songs in the show is Mister Cellophane and Neil Ditt is remarkable as the invisible Amos Hart, as is his rendition of this iconic song. The ensemble and swings are incredibly strong, and as a result the show runs like clockwork. Unlike many shows, where they fill in or fill the stage – Chicago is one of those excellent pieces, where no cast member is relegated to the back of the stage; they all have a chance to shine.
With Cell Bock Tango, When You’re Good to Mama, Nowadays and so many more, the hits of Kander and Ebb and the marvellous movement of Bob Fosse give this show the timeless class, that keeps audiences coming back for more.
But with this cast, you get talent to burn also. So, now is as good a time as any to revisit Chicago and go back to black and All That Jazz. A fantastic night out!
Glenn Meads for Canal St Online