With one of the best musical scores ever written, Chicago makes a welcome return to Birmingham this week at the New Alexandra Theatre. ‘All That Jazz’ opens the show and sets the up-tempo mood for the entire duration of the show: bold, brash and saucy.
The announcement of a mainly soap star cast late last year left me feeling a little underwhelmed but the show allowed almost every cast member to ‘Razzle Dazzle’ in this excellent production. One in particular was Tupele Dorgu, whose portrayal of the iconic Velma Kelly was outstanding. The strong, confident character was met in perfect style by Dorgu who impressed vocally and commanded the stage with ease during each of her scenes.
Ali Bastian, as Roxie Hart, was, however, somewhat lacklustre when it came to displaying her vocal chords, none more so than in the closing number of Act 1, “My Own Best Friend”, when both leading ladies are, quite literally, in the spotlight, it’s difficult to not compare them on all levels. With Bastian’s singing abilities to one side, her take on the loveable, yet determined, Roxie was impressive. She grasped the character to her finest degree and the trials of her emotional and rollercoaster personal life were fulfilled with great substance.
Matron Mama Morton is taken on by Bernie Nolan, most famous, perhaps, for singing, but it is here where her acting abilities are able to triumph. As a central and pivotal character, Nolan’s experience is evident which provides an excellent backdrop for the strong and commanding character, particularly during her solo rendition of “When You’re Good To Mama.”
The charismatic Billy Flynn is not so charming with Stefan Booth’s interpretation of the prestigious lawyer. Whilst “We Both Reached for the Gun” was slick and exciting, I can’t help but feel it was Bastian who made the number. For when Booth takes to the solo stage in “All I Care About Is Love’ and again in “Razzle Dazzle”, I cannot help but feel the number is somewhat drab and his persona is a little too laid-back; these numbers should be the polar opposite.
The chorus of dancers, singers and actors are all superb, particularly strong on dancing; there was not a line out of place the entire night.
I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the evening than with the merry murderesses of the Cook County jail. A terrifically brilliant show that should not be missed.
Kieran Johnson (@KieranJaye)