Sophie Carmen-Jones as Velma Kelly. Pictures:
- The Musical
The New Alexandra Theatre
WHO says crime doesn’t pay? If you are
pretty, sexy, can throw in adultery and a slice of good-time-girl and,
for good measure, commit murder in sensational style – your career is
And Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly certainly tick the
sexy box and can add sensational murders to their CV after their
publicist-come-lawyer Billy Flynn has worked his magic – all part of
his $5,000 a pop service which offers a near guaranteed acquittal.
This is 1920’s prohibition Chicago, the Jazz Age,
mobsters and bootleggers, Al Capone and Eliot Ness, and murder,
especially by women of husbands and lovers, has become a spectator
sport, with every lurid detail lapped up by a sensation chasing Press.
And that is where this
Bob Fosse musical opens amid a chorus line of legs mixed with six-pack
torsos and the sounds of All That Jazz
flowing down from the orchestra – sexsational.
Then Roxie has to spoil it by shooting
extramarital lover boy Fred, played for his short time upon this earth,
by Francis Foreman.
Emmerdale and Corrie star Hayley Tamaddon shows
some lovely comic timing as Roxie and no small measure of sex appeal,
which always helps with all male juries. Fred’s heinous crime, by the
way, was to threaten to dump her, and saying he deserved all he got is
not seen by anyone
but Roxie as the best defence in the world.
So enter fellow soap star John Partridge as
silver tongued lawyer Billy Flynn, if you have $5,000, who mixes show
business and fiction and calls it a defence. Partridge has the right
amount of smarmy charm to make Flynn a believable liar.
The very clever
We both reached for the gun
ventriloquist routine demands impeccable timing and Roxie and Billy nail
it for a highlight of the show.
Hayley Tamaddon as Roxie and John Partridge as Billy
Flynn in We Both Reached for the Gun
With Roxie the next big thing in murderesses,
double killer Velma, in a sparkling performance from Sophie
Carmen-Jones, finds her moment of fame passing into history as she
battles to keep herself in the infamy limelight.
Not that she is alone.
There are other madam murderers in the Joint's killing club as we hear
in the fun Cell Block Tango
as we discover six ways to leave your lover . . . on a permanent basis.
Mica Paris has a voice to move mountains and
fills the stage with rich sound as Matron Mama Morton the jail boss who
also seems to have a theatrical agency for marketable murderers on the
side, while A D Richardson is a delight as the sob sister reporter Mary
Sunshine. This is a classy performance, one of the best I have seen in
the role, with its surprise, not to give anything away, at the end.
Then there is Roxie’s
husband, mechanic Amos, played by Neil Ditt, cuckolded and yet still so
much in love and ready to forgive pretty well anything, and there is an
ever growing litany of things to forgive, with his song of
insignificance, Mr Cellophane.
A lovely performance.
The 10 piece band under Léon Charles are superb,
whether jazz, big band or, half heartedly, for Amos while the dancing
and ensemble work by originally Bob Fosse and later in his style by Ann
Reinking, is just magical. It’s slick, sensuous, sultry and paints sexy
pictures all over the stage – there is even a tribute in there to Busby
Berkeley with ostrich feather fans.
Each one is a star in their own
Chicago always appears more of a cabaret format than a musical,
with minimal set comprising of mainly the orchestra in a raked bank, and
stylised action which works well and 40 years on still looks fresh and
original. There is plenty of wit in there with satire which might be
about Chicago then but still has echoes of now and as for Roxie and
Velma? They were acquitted of course and leave us with their song and
dance double act before heading off on the road to make . . . a killing.
As an alternative to Christmas panto this is a
show hot enough to melt away any frosty evening. Its rock, or should
that be Roxie solid entertainment . . . and all that jazz. To 31-12-16
WHEN it opened in 1975 Chicago might have been a
modern musical but it had its own built in history. For example, Fred
Ebb wrote book and lyrics and John Kander the music in vaudeville style
with each character’s songs modelled on a star of the age, Mamma Morton
was modelled on Sophie Tucker for instance, perhaps the best known in
It helps set the whole feel of the show in the
1920s, and then the musical is based on Maurine Dallas Watkins play of
1926. She was a reporter on the Chicago Tribune and her play was based
on two particular trials she had covered, Beulah Annan, who was the
model for Roxie, and like her was married to a devoted car mechanic, and
shot her lover.
Then there was Belva Gaertner , a cabaret singer,
who was accused of shooting her lover but claimed he could have shot
himself. The evidence said otherwise rather loudly but both were
acquitted, by all male juries, helped by a pair of celebrity lawyers who
were to be the inspiration for slippery Billy Flynn.
Billy Flynn meets Busby Berkeley
And in Court No 2 . . .
ANY jury would bring in a unanimous verdict in favour of the cast in
this hugely entertaining musical
featuring very attractive women
killers and a crafty lawyer who could virtually guarantee freedom for a
5,000 dollar fee.
Set in the late 1920s, ittakes a cynical look at
the way the legal system could be manipulated by a slick ‘mouthpiece’
and a good sob story, eagerly gobbled up by newspapers….especially if
the accused were good looking and sexy.
Here Emmerdale and Dancing on Ice star Hayley
Tamaddon and Sophie Carmen-Jones, who has appeared in Casualty and as a
dancer in The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, play the stunning Roxie
Hart and Velma Kelly, behind bars awaiting trial for murders and
desperately competing for headlines to gain public sympathy.
Both sing and dance superbly, and John Partridge,
of EastEnders fame, impresses as the smart lawyer Billy Flynn who
blatantly uses the media in his plans to save his clients from justice,
a scheme perfectly highlighted in sarcastic number Razzle Dazzle and the
brilliant scene where Flynn uses Roxie like a ventriloquist’s dummy to
answer probing questions from the press.
A lovely performance, too, from Neil Ditt as Amos
Hart, the hapless husband of Roxie, at first prepared to carry the can
for the shooting of his wife’s lover, and summing up his own lack of
personality in the clever song, Mister Cellophane.
Mica Paris, playing Mama Morton, matron of the
women’s prison, delights the audience with When You’re Good to Mama, and
A.D.Richardson reveals a fine falsetto voice as ‘sob sister’ columnist
Mary Sunshine….then reveals something else later in the show!
One of the highlights is provided by Velma and
all the women killers in the Cell Block Tango when they each explain why
they murdered their men….one because he kept popping chewing gum.
Sparkling choreography and the powerful music
played by the on-stage orchestra, directed by Leon Charles, complete a
great Christmas offering at the Alex.It’s certainly not a prison panto.