Oldham Coliseum

Helen Power & Marianne Benedict
Helen Power & Marianne Benedict
© Andrew Billington Photography
Oldham Coliseum has been shrewd in its acquisition of the rights to Chicago; a well-known musical to many having been a West End stalwart for a number of years and frequently touring the regions.

Synonymous with scandal, sass, sexy glamorous costumes and Fosse choreography, this production has moved away from some of this and presented itself as more of a vaudeville show; more colour and less of the black and white canvass we have come to see Chicago present itself as in recent years.

The story is a familiar one, 1920's Chicago where the theatre of justice is a staple form of entertainment. Jazz, liquor, guns and girls make for a volatile time and crime provides a source of temporary celebrity status for the inmates of the Cook County Jail.

Roxie Hart (Helen Power) shoots her lover and attempts to get her husband Amos (Adam Barlow) to take the blame. She is held at the jail run by Mama Morton (Shirley Darroch) where Velma Kelly (Marianne Benedict) is the resident star of the prison until Hart appears on the scene. Both assisted by superstar lawyer Billy Flynn (Adam C Booth); the women attempt to twist their situation to their advantage and get what they can from their predicament.

Kevin Shaw has gone for an impressive mix of musicians, dancers and actor-musicians to bring this show to life and the small stage at the Coliseum has never looked so full. The set design by Foxtons is as always, impressive yet functional. Unfortunately the sound system at the Coliseum seems somewhat overwhelmed by the number of voices and instruments in use and does not do justice to this ambitious production.

Benedict's Kelly is a real tour de force. Her vocals are strong and powerful and her acting shows real panache. Darroch's Morton is a little too pantomime dame and her facial mugging during "When You're Good to Mama" is excessive and distracting. However, her duet with Benedict ("Class") is superb with both performers bring out the best in each other.

Booth's Flynn is certainly full of flair and smugness and he moves around the stage with a great deal of vitality. Power's Hart is a good representation of the selfish nature of the character but occasionally fails to hit the mark in some of her solo numbers.

The two stand out moments are "We both Reached for the Gun" and "Razzle Dazzle" which both come to life and demonstrate the versatility of the cast. Kevin Shaw has embarked on an ambitious project here but seems to have largely pulled it off.

There are areas that could be improved and this is big show to tackle but the team at the Coliseum are not frightened by it and have produced a solid show that is entertaining and colourful and not one to be missed.

- Ruth Lovett