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Chris High reviews Theatre

Chicago

Haley Flaherty, George Asprey, Dawn Spence,
Dale Meeks, M J Dugdale, Katy Secombe, Sasha Ely
Director: Charles Shirvell
Choreographer: Gary Chryst
Musical Director: Stuart Calvert

Liverpool Empire Theatre
Wednesday 25 April – Saturday 5 May

Chicago The Musical  promotional image 2007


With Liverpool’s own Jennifer Ellison – star of I’m A Celebrity and Brookside – breaking her kneecap and being forced to pull out of the show, would Chicago still be able to razzle dazzle the Liverpool audience? Judging by this performance, those who returned their tickets in disappointment at not seeing the Liver Beauty perform may have acted a little hastily. Not for nothing has this show won award after award and not for nothing does it continue to drag them in on the West End. This touring production of Chicago is, unquestionably, a knock out.

Roxie Hart shoots dead her illicit lover and winds up in prison. Realising that a good sob story – and an expensive lawyer – will save her neck, Roxie begins to play to the press and so tries to win her freedom at the expense of everything – and everyone – else. Want to get what you really want? Kill someone. That’s what Roxie Hart does in Chicago, after all, and gets away with it brilliantly.

Haley Flaherty is superb in the role. Her voice, dance and timing are all impeccable, as she prowls the stage with a sultry seductiveness that is almost tangible in its sex appeal.
Dawn Spence, playing the role of fellow- inmate and rival for the most notorious spot, Velma, is outstanding. With a voice that soars high into the rafters of the auditorium, Spence performs with all the energy of the Northern Lights from the kick off and never lets up.

Stealing the show, however, is George Asprey, Roxie’s oily lawyer, Billy Flynn. “If Jesus Christ had come to me with five thousand bucks,” he says. “I guarantee the outcome would have been different.” Asprey is absolutely stunning. Using a control that comes from within so as not to turn his character into one of cardboard, he instead lets his persona do the talking and his voice the singing.

With a score that gets the feet tapping, played brilliantly by a band situated on stage in what is supposed to be 1930’s Jazz Bar, other highlights come from Dale Meeks playing Roxie’s infatuated and short-sighted husband, Amos, who’s song Mister Cellophane, was moving and beautifully delivered. Katy Secombe, too, as the Jailhouse Matron is wonderful and her duet, Class, with Dawn Spence, is both funny and – sadly – true.

Chicago is a wonderful theatrical experience, with enough spectacle to satisfy the most ardent of enthusiasts and enough memorable performances to linger a lifetime in the memory. The intricacy of the songs – such as the semi-duet of Spence and Flaherty during Nowadays – is testament in itself to the slick skill injected into the show, but the choreography is something else again. Clever, delicate, perfectly placed and exquisitely performed, every step was spot on.

Does Chicago still Razzle Dazzle without the homecoming star? Oh yes … like the Star Of India Diamond.
10/10.

Related: Chicago The Musical review from Liverpool 2012


 

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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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