Kieran Johnson reviews the Leicester Curve production of Chicago, featuring Verity Rushworth and Gemma Sutton
After the last year's Christmas show Hello, Dolly!, the Leicester Curve tackles the feisty Chicago this festive period. Full of glamour, scandal, murder and greed, it doesn't strike as the usual Christmas selection but it certainly is the hottest Christmas show around this year.
Since the 2002 Hollywood movie, Chicago has found itself a new audience. Closing in the West End two years ago, there has since been a UK tour of the famous Broadway concert version of the musical. This is the first major professional production of Chicago since the end of its nationwide tour. A fully staged version with lavish costumes, incredible new choreography and a perfectly cast troupe of performers, this is by far the best production of Chicago that I've seen.
The story follows Roxie Hart (Gemma Sutton) and her journey from a humdrum housewife to becoming the talk of the town after committing a murder. In jail she meets Velma Kelly (Verity Rushworth) who has become a local celebrity from the media attached to her murder trial. Roxie enlists the help of Velma's hot shot city lawyer, Billy Flynn (David Leonard) to create the stardom she always dreamt of.
Roxie is a complicated character that Gemma Sutton portrays in her unique way. Her sometimes childish characterisation works well, allowing the audience to develop an understanding and fondness of Roxie. During her first number, Funny Hubby, Sutton's voice is exposed and she delivers a heartfelt dedication to her husband. She also proves herself in Roxie; the dance routine with "her boys" is a highlight of the show.
Verity Rushworth is a sassy and strong Velma. She remains strong throughout the piece, until she needs to show her desperation during the final few scenes. Opening the show with All That Jazz, her character development is believable and allows the connection to her character to be heartfelt. I Can't Do It Alone is impressive and allows Rushworth to demonstrate her diversity as a performer.
Sandra Marvin is the perfect Mamma Morton; her powerful, smooth vocal is pitch perfect during When You're Good To Mama, which was another highlight of the show. Her pleasant, rich tones are especially appreciated during her duet with Velma, Class, a chance for the pair of them to comment on social wrongdoings. Their delivery is somewhat charming in the sense that their concerns are still relevant to modern society.
Sleazy Billy Flynn is played by David Leonard, who captures the humour of the character in a terrifically comedic sense. His centrepiece is Razzle Dazzle, which is a visual treat from the moment the pink feathers enter from the wings. Matthew Barrow is the most vulnerable and sweet Amos Hart imaginable and his rendition of Mr Cellophane is heartwarming.
Paul Kerryson's direction is slick. His artistic vision for the show creates a dynamic cast performing in scenes that are staged in great context. Costume design from takis and lighting design by Phillip Gladwell ensure this production is a complete show stopping spectacle.
Drew McOnie's choreography is a phenomenal achievement, with each dance completely relevant and appropriate for the scene. The dance ensemble tackle his seductive choreography with precision and stamina, giving absolute knockout performances in numbers such as Cell Block Tango, We Both Reached For The Gun and Me And My Baby.
I cannot fault this production; Chicago is just another example of how the Curve is one of the country's leading production houses. I can't wait to see what is in store from them in 2014.
Chicago plays at Leicester's Curve until 18 January 2014.