As the near capacity audience take to their seats, all that is visible on the stage is a wooden chair with a black bowler hat hooked over the back. A solitary figure known as Go-to-Hell-Kitty Claire Rogers, dressed in little more than her underwear, walks silently onto the stage, picks up the hat and informs the assembled crowd that we are in for a night of murderous fun. This can only be the sexy, sultry, sassy Chicago.
The curtain rises and, seated on a wedge shaped platform, the 11-piece orchestra strike up the, familiar, opening bars of All That Jazz. The dancers fill the stage with the girls all in varying types of undergarments and the boys in figure hugging or see-through tops and low-cut, impossibly tight, trousers.
Tupele Dorgu takes the role of Velma Kelly and, throughout the show, she exhibits both a superb singing voice and an accomplished dancing ability. She plays her character well, with her brash, confident persona occasionally giving way to her more vulnerable, needy side. As Roxy Hart, Ali Bastian’s talent is every bit as good, some might say even slightly better. She performs well alone, but also seems to engage perfectly with the other characters in her scenes.
The story, as many will know, is set mainly in prison with “Mama” Morton Bernie Nolan the Top Dog. For me, sadly, this is the one character that didn’t quite work. Although worldly-wise and very motherly, she lacks the authority that such a person would need to remain on top in that environment. Having said that, she still belts out When you’re good to Mama, and displays a quite amazing cleavage.
Hot shot lawyer Billy Flynn is played with slick, polished perfection by Stefan Booth. With a singing voice as mellow and rich as the very best chocolate, looks to die for, and impeccable dress sense he dominates the stage whenever he appears. He manipulates the media so well that he could easily be dubbed the Max Clifford of the 1920s.
Heading the media posse, and deserving of a very special mention, is Mary Sunshine played by the amazing counter-tenor Alex Weatherhill. His opening number, A little bit of good, allows him to show the full operatic heights of his voice, a easy match for any of the very best sopranos, and leaves many in the audience questioning his gender. Jamie Baughan as Roxy’s downtrodden husband Amos also gets his chance to shine in Act Two with a great version of Mr Cellophane.
Final mention goes to, possibly, the hardest working man in the cast, Adam Salter. As well as being a superb dancer he also shows off some terrific acrobatic moves, including climbing high up a ladder before suspending himself upside down and then at 90 degrees to it. That scene finished, he then returns to the stage and, with very little in the way of costume changing to help, he portrays brilliantly the entire jury, both males and females.
The whole cast work tirelessly to ensure that this, touring, production lives up to the reputation of it’s Broadway and West-End cousins and I am very pleased to say that it does just that. It is sexy without being seedy, naughty without being nasty, and cheeky without being cheap, in fact, Chicago is simply to die for!