‘Chicago’ UK & Ireland Tour (Edinburgh Playhouse) | Review By Alison Jeni Frater

It’s time to slick your hair and wear your buckles shoes and head to the Edinburgh Playhouse to see Chicago! I have seen Chicago twice before, but this was a very special press night for me, as it is the first show I have seen since March 2020. 

Based on a true story, Chicago is set in the 1920’s and follows Roxie Hart as she murders her lover and tries to manipulate her husband Amos into taking the blame for her. After going to jail Roxie meets the infamous Velma Kelly and the two fight for the attention of their lawyer Billy Flynn and of course the press. 

Faye Brookes is a truly magnificent Roxie Hart. Roxie acts as the narrator of the story at many points during the show and Faye was very enticing and lured the audience in had them hanging on her every word. Her singing and dancing were sublime, and I could not take my eyes off her. Her physical comedy was also excellent.  I really loved watching Faye’s portrayal of Roxie. 

Djalenga Scott’s Velma Kelly was outstanding. Velma opens the show with the classic number ‘All that Jazz’ and Djalenga did not disappoint. She was feisty, fierce and sultry. She set the tone for the whole show and her energy was phenomenal from start to finish. Dajengla had strong vocals and her dancing was also incredible. Her comedic timing was superb and this can be seen in numbers such as ‘I Can’t Do It Alone’ and ‘When Velma Takes the Stand’. 

Matron Mama Morton played by Sinatta Malone was most definitely a crowd pleaser. Her voice was great and I loved Mama Morton’s signature song ‘When you’re Good to Mama’. I enjoyed Sinatta’s performance most when she gave into those moments of flirtatiousness within Mama Morton’s character.

Darren Day was an excellent Billy Flynn. He was a true showman and had a real presence on stage. Darren did well to make Billy likeable (as the character is a master manipulator) but the audience almost forgot this when Darren was on stage. I really enjoyed Darren’s performance and felt the portrayal of Billy Flynn was just spot on. 

Joel Montague’s Amos Hart was fantastic. Joel was very funny and I adored his rendition of Mr Cellophane and Joel really pulled on the audiences heartstrings with this number. 

Divina De Campo’s performance as Mary Sunshine was so fun. Her portrayal of the reporter was great and we have to mention her four octave range. Her voice was angelic and I had goosebumps watching her sing. Fantastic performance. 

Joel Benjamin’s Fred Casely was a strong performance. This character is only in two scenes and most of the action in these scenes is movement/ dance. I thought Joel Benjamin did a great job. 

The ensemble in this production is phenomenal. Chicago would not be the show it is without a strong ensemble and this ensemble were unmatched in their energy and performances. The ensembles timing was impeccable and it was mesmerising to watch them to unite and move as one in a formation. They all worked well as a unit, but this show also is great as each member of the ensemble tends to have a solo performance as a named character where they get a chance to introduce their talents to the audience. For Example, in the number ‘Cell Block Tango’ Delycia Belgrave, Michelle Andrews, Billie Hardy, Hollie Jane Stephens and Emily Goodenough were all captivating in each of their individual roles.  It is worth noting the ensemble never have any time off stage as they are seated at the side of the playing area for the whole performance, it was impressive to watch each of them maintain a character for the length of the performance. The ensemble for the press night were as follows: Delycia Belgrave, Michelle Andrews, Billie Hardy, Hollie Jane Stephens and Emily Goodenough, Theo Reece, Ishamil Aaron, Gabby Antrobus, Joel Benjamin, Tanisha- Mae Brown, Daniel Clift, Callum Fitzgerald, Aaron Jenkins, Liam Marcellino, Harrison Wilde. 

John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse’s wrote the music, book and lyrics for this show was adapted from the play written by Maurine Watkins which was based on true events. The score of Chicago is iconic. I have seen the show previously and I am well versed with the music, but I do not think I would ever get bored of the music in this show. The music really aids the storytelling, especially for characters Velma and Roxie. 

Stacey Haynes direction for this performance was truly wonderful. Whilst watching the show the audience were encapsulated in the action straight away and I believe that Haynes did well to create an atmosphere of 1920’s Chicago and the drama that unfolds throughout the course of the show. The character arcs and development of each of the characters were really strong. Stacey did a great job with the relationship between Roxie and Velma as they begin loathing each other but embrace the strange situation they have been put in by the end of the show.  The show also had so many great images and was visually very pleasing. I enjoyed the back and forth between these beautiful snapshots of action and then diving into these characters and their stories. 

You can not go and see Chicago and not mention the stellar choreography.  Bob Fosse originally choreographed and directed the show. To this day the choreography still has the essence of Fosse’s style with Fosse walks and gesticular/simplistic movements. The synchronicity of the cast was also magnificent, they all moved as one.  Gary Chryst has done a brilliant job in recreating the original choreography as I was so intrigued by how such simple gestures and movements could be elevated into exciting and dynamic choreography. I also really enjoyed the use of different levels of the performers which made the show so visually appealing. One of my favourite numbers was ‘We Both Reached for the Gun’ which Billy Flynn uses Roxie as a ventriloquist dummy and controls all of her answers in a press conference. Every little detail in the choreography was danced to perfection. 

Overall I adored this show. The performances were fresh and fun. The choreography was unforgettable. I am so happy that this was my first show back at the theatre. What a triumph. You must get yourself to the Edinburgh Playhouse to go and see Chicago. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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