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Chicago review

America’s sauciest musical offers plenty of razzle dazzle.

Hit musical Chicago shimmies into Leeds Grand Theatre as a part of a national tour this month. The show features television favourites Hayley Tamaddon, John Patridge and Jessie Wallace in leading roles.

In prohibition Chicago, two ambitious vaudevillian performers are imprisoned for murder. At the centre of high-profile cases, fame-hungry Roxie and Velma battle it out for the limelight, as well as the attentions of their string-pulling lawyer, Billy Flynn. Who will escape the noose and win stardom?

Chicago may be best known for its hit movie adaptation at the turn of the millennium, however its origins are wholly theatrical, following great Broadway success in the mid-Seventies. From a book by John Kander and Fred Ebb, with choreography from the legendary Bob Fosse, the show bursts with roaring jazz numbers and sensual, flamboyant dance routines.

With casting which is bound to draw fans of television drama, Chicago admirably demonstrates the often-hidden song and dance talents of modern soap opera stars, many who began their careers in musical theatre. This new production sees pocket-sized Hayley Tamaddon as cute and cocky flapper girl Roxy, providing a boundless energy next to Sophie Carmen-Jones as the equally sassy and saucy Velma. John Patridge cuts a striking image as Billy Flynn, with his signature gravelly vocal which many will recall from his memorable West End turn in Cats. The leads are joined by an instantly recognisable Jessie Wallace, who provides attitude and gravitas as Mama Morton. Other standout performances include an outstanding vocal from A.D.Richardson as Mary Sunshine, a swooning journalist. Neil Ditt is also memorably wet and whimpering as the doomed Amos.

Chicago is famous for its opening hit number, All That Jazz, which packs a brassy punch with salacious vocals from Sophie Carmen-Jones. An abundance of catchy numbers flood the show, all roaring with a contemporary Twenties’ verve. Cell Block Tango offers a raunchy chorus routine, Razzle Dazzle is a seduction of smooth jazz and When You’re Good to Mama provides Jessie Wallace an opportunity to showcase a fine vocal technique. We Both Reached for the Gun is mouthed by Tamaddon with Partridge as ventriloquist; perfectly combining story, music, dance and comedy in a fusion of spectacular stagecraft.

Leon Charles provides blasting musical direction from an orchestra which is fully visible on stage on raked staging, placing the band at the heart of the performance. The arrangement pops with energy and rapturous brass throughout, buttressed with a visible charisma from the players. There is an irresistible urge to rock to the roaring numbers, which offer a unique percussive element which feels wholly authentic to the period. Choreography is equally impressive, with an ensemble which issues movement and form with a relentlessly sensual energy.

Chicago is a dazzling musical which puts the villain into vaudeville. Sleazy, sexy and sinister, it is a show with a devious and deceptively dark side which plays out to catchy Twenties sounds and memorable dance routines. With a cast which wins out on every level, Chicago is a musical which offers plenty of razzle dazzle for your dollar.

Cast: Hayley Tamaddon, Sophie Carmen-Jones, John Partridge, Jessie Wallace, Neil Ditt, A.D. Richardson, Daniele Arbisi, Nicola Coates, Frances Dee Director: Walter Robbie Writers: John Kander, Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse Theatre: Leeds Grand Theatre Duration: 140 minutes Dates: Tuesday 22nd – Saturday 26th November 2016.

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