Chicago is a well-known musical that has been running for several years, so there are mild spoilers ahead…and all that jazz.

Credit: Tristram Kenton

Chicago – a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery – razzled and dazzled the New Wimbledon Theatre with incredibly talented actors, a live band on stage, and, of course, Bob Fosse’s trademark choreography in all its glory.

A satirical musical commenting on the American justice system in the 1920s, Chicago is based off the stories of real women on ‘murderess row.’ Journalist Maurine Watkins covered these women’s cases, commenting on the way they were acquitted based on their looks rather than their evidence. In 1926, she fashioned these cases into a play – the foundation of what we know as the musical today, which premiered in 1975.

Chicago’s structure is an echo of a vaudeville – a mix of short acts that included singing, dancing, burlesque, acrobatics, and drag. This explains why it has minimal dialogue and is a series of ‘acts’ announced by various cast members. It also explains (spoiler) Mary Sunshine’s drag reveal, something I questioned the need of as it initially came across as a self-congratulatory ‘Look, we included a queer character!’ However, this was in the original 1975 production and is a nod to the drag performances in vaudevilles.

Those who have seen the movie may initially be underwhelmed by the minimal set and lack of costume changes. However, it allows you to focus on the powerful talent and stunning choreography. The chorus fills the stage, making you grateful there are not any props to hinder them.

Credit: Tristram Kenton

While ‘Cell Block Tango’ is the performance most know and look forward to, the show-stealing number was definitely ‘We Both Reached for the Gun’ with Roxie flawlessly acting as a marionette controlled by Billy.

Faye Brookes dazzled the audience as the ditzy, dreamful Roxie. Her voice was silky, and her energy was high for the entirety of the show. Jamie Baughan, who played Roxie’s funny, sunny hubby Amos did a great job eliciting the audience’s pity, with even a few audible “awws.” BE Wong was brilliant as the sympathetic, credulous journalist Mary Sunshine and sang an impressive soprano. Russel Watson gave a good performance of the sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn, but his lack of body movement left something to be desired. Nonetheless, his voice filled the theatre, which is no surprise giving his comprehensive background as a classical singer. Sheilda Ferguson (Mama) had a great voice and embodied Mama’s wit, but like Watson failed to take up the stage.

The real show-stealer was Djalenga Scott as Velma. Confident, controlled, and captivating, the stage was Scott’s each time she walked onto it. Her spectacular performances of ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘I Can’t Do It Alone’ were without a sign of breathlessness. She effortlessly captured Velma’s allure, making you wonder if she was born for this role.

Chicago is only in Wimbledon until 21 May, so go see it while you can, or follow it on the tour!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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