My Kinda Musical

Terry Wills on the latest production of Chicago, currently playing in Birmingham.

Chicago - Alexandra TheatreSet in Illinois during the mid-1920’s, Chicago is a musical that down the years has continued to attract audiences wherever it’s played. It sends them home with the feeling that they’ve thoroughly enjoyed a great night’s entertainment and, unless they’re virtually impossible to please, this current touring production will surely continue the trend.

It’s based on a true story surrounding two murderesses, Velma Kelly, a double-killer, and Roxie Hart, a nightclub singer who extracts her own revenge on her cheating lover and claims it was simply a case of self-defence. This was because “I was holding a knife and he just happened to run on to it about ten times”

It’s an excuse that sets the scene for a production which underlines just how corrupt were many facets of the Prohibition era, when criminals and their molls could, overnight, become personality crime celebrities. Velma has a defence lawyer, Jimmy Flynn. A smooth, sleazy, slick talking charmer prepared to take on any case seeming to be a lost cause – as long as they can afford to pay his outrageous fees.

Masses of press exposure makes her top dog in prison and leaves Roxie jealous to the extent that she also asks Mr Flynn to take on her case. But can she afford him and what will be the eventual verdict from a jury? Guilty, as the evidence clearly proves, or Not Guilty thanks to the expertise of Jimmy Flynn? No prizes for guessing the verdict!

The appeal of this production is that while these events actually happened, the strength of fun, exhilarating dancing and catchy songs will invariably prove a very popular box office hit. It opens with Velma, played by Tupele Dorgu, and company singing the show’s most recognisable number, All that Jazz, and concludes as she enjoys a duet, Hot Honey Rag, with Roxie, Ali Bastian.

The setting for the production is based inside a state prison. No eye catching scenery. No beautiful dresses. On the contrary, although the sight of scantily dressed dancers, often in provocative situations, shows that the Chicago of the Roaring Twenties was a city where anything goes. Stefan Booth as Jimmy Flynn also plays his role to perfection.

Add the rest of an enthusiastic cast, including Bernie Nolan, plus a live on stage orchestra, and the feeling is that they well deserved the enthusiastic applause from those who appreciate genuine talent.

This Chicago is well worth a visit.

So if you can, pop along to the Alex and enjoy another musical penned by the duo of John Kember and Fred Ebb, with dancing choreographed by the legendary talents of Bob Fossee..Chicago has won numerous awards for both film and stage productions and this current production certainly deserves to be in the running for more.

Chicago is at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, until 10th March.