After the opening night of the Manchester leg of the current Chicago tour, "the name on everybody's lips is gonna be Tupele Dorgu." The former Coronation Street actress delivers a sassy, sexy, leggy and flawless turn as killer Velma Kelly and the show becomes all about her, as a result.
Most people on opening night know the show inside out and tap their feet and clap along to the brilliant songs and music of Kander and Ebb. Dorgu's opening number "All That Jazz" is show stopping and gives the actress one helluva an entrance. As Kelly Crabtree, the actress was clearly wasted because once she unleashes her inner Velma, there is no stopping her. With fiery red hair and a strut worthy of a Beyonce video, Tupele is a West End star in waiting.
Ali Bastian's Roxie Hart - the new girl on the "Cell Block" may have shown she could tango on Strictly, but what about her voice? Well, sadly she is out sung by Velma as her voice is simply too reedy to convince. She does, however have great comic timing and her moves are never in question. Her accent is all over the place though and she is not the leading lady you wish for.
Bernie Nolan has the voice (her duet of "Class" with Dorgu is stunning) but none of the stature and street-wise nous which makes Mama Morton such a formidable character, as she needs more swagger. Stefan Booth may be too young as Lawyer - Billy Flynn but he shines whenever he is on stage, particularly during "Razzle Dazzle" when he does just that.
The show's themes remain timeless, as we still live in a world where fame is a currency, regardless of talent. So, thankfully the ensemble proves that there is no substitute for hard work, as they may not be names but they have the ability to carry the show when some of the more well known members of the cast flag slightly. Claire Rogers and Melanie Cripps stand out but the swings and ensemble shine throughout.
Unlike some touring productions of West End shows, this production is not totally inferior to its London relative, as it loses none of its sparkle and the director keeps things rattling along at a rollicking pace. Bastian may be not totally rock Chicago as she is slightly miscast but with triple threat - Dorgu on stage for most of the production, she has more than enough "Razzle Dazzle" and "Class" for the both of them.