Chicago the Musical

Lyrics by Fred Ebb, music by John Kander, book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Sunderland Empire and touring
(2009)

Publicity photo

Sexy, sassy and ever so slightly sleazy kind of sums up Chicago the Musical. And this particular offering is slinky and sophisticated, a real jazzed-up show-stopper.

A satire on the cynical power of the press, the greed of clever lawyers and corruption, this may be a tale set in 1920s Illinois, but it translates just as easily to our times. And the storyline seemed remarkably fresh and modern-day!

Based on real-life events in the roaring 20s, nightclub singer Roxie Hart shoots her lover, and along with cellblock rival, the double-murderess Velma Kelly, she fights to keep from Death Row with the help of smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn.

Step forward Mr Jimmy Osmond as the greedy, manipulative Flynn. The big attraction with this touring version of Chicago was the star billing of the legendary Osmond. And he did not disappoint. He got a round of applause the moment he made his entrance, although a blip with his microphone on his opening number was easily glossed over when he was given a hand-held mic.

He has just recently finished his West End debut in Grease, and I, for one, was intrigued to see him in an acting role. What a pro, though. He's a man who knows his way around the stage, having lived in the spotlight with his siblings and as a solo artist since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. He seemed so relaxed on stage, it's clear he's in his comfort zone. He more than held his own with a commanding performance - and the voice was as strong as ever.

His sparkling Razzle Dazzle number did just what it said on the tin. And the scene where he works Roxie like a dummy, feeding her the right lines to spout to reporters, is a terrific piece of theatre.

Emma Barton (formerly Honey Mitchell from EastEnders) is a class act as Roxie Hart. Vulnerable, yet explosive, she is very believable.

Twinnie-Lee Moore smoulders as Velma, and you can't help but sympathise with her plight, as she shimmies and high kicks her way across the stage.

Both Emma and Twinnie-Lee are mesmerising and a pleasure to watch.

And Adam Stafford as Roxie's poor put-upon husband Amos is fantastic in his Mister Cellophane scene, bemoaning how nobody ever notices him. Well, we noticed him.

The spartan, pared back sets - a few simple chairs, and clever use of light in the form of spotlights and to depict prison cell bars on the floor - captured the mood terrifically. All very atmospheric and spell-binding. And the orchestra, on stage throughout, as a backdrop to the action front of stage is as much an integral part of the show.

It's exciting and fast-paced, and clatters along at a pace. Show-stopping stuff.

Reviewer: Katharine Capocci