Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Musical Director: Adam Kirk
July 2 – July 7
Producer: David Ian & Michael Watt in association with Barry & Fran Weissler Productions
Cast: Tupele Dorgu, Bernie Nolan, Ali Bastian, Stefan Booth, Jamie Baughan, Alex WetherillRunning Time: 2 hrs 20 mins
A show that is just crammed with tongue-in-cheek largesse, Chicago never disappoints and this touring production is no exception to that rule, thanks to a cast who positively brim with energy, enthusiasm and energy.
Roxie Hart has killed her lover, as have most of the inmates in Cook County Jail, but rather than plead not guilty she decides the “celebrity status” of murder is far too good to miss out on and so sets out to prove her act as being one of “self defence”, rather than “malice aforethought”.
And what ensues, from first-to-last, is quite simply captivating, with Ali Bastian playing the self-absorbed and heartless Roxie Hart with fantastic vim and vigour, as she tries to convince Stefan Booth’s superbly slick and slimy celebrity lawyer, Billy Flynn, of her innocence. We Both Reached for the Gun, wherein Flynn controls Roxie as though she is a ventriloquists dummy, is sublime theatre that is just one of the many highlights of the show, thanks to the manner in which it is executed.
The exquisite jazz band onstage, with whom the cast interact from time-to-time, embellish the sultry atmosphere and so bring 1920’s Chicago out like daffodils in spring, as the cast dance seductively and sing throatily in front of them.
And none are better at both of these aspects than Tupele Dorgu as Velma Kelly, the object of Roxie’s derision. Dorgu – best known for playing Kelly Crabtree in Coronation Street for 5 years – is a sensational song and dance actor, keeping to her role – and her Chicago drawl – with such skill it is remarkable to observe and underlines that her abilities stretch far beyond the cobbled streets of Wetherfield. All That Jazz – the opening number – resonates with chic sexiness, whereas her duet, Class, with Bernie Nolan’s somewhat understated“Mama” Morton, is quite simply worth the ticket price alone.
Jamie Baughn’s sad loser, Amos Hart, adds pathos and cheer in equal measure – particularly during Mr Cellophane – and Alex Wetherhill’s Mary Sunshine brings out-and-out laughter during There’s A Little Bit of Good In Everyone so that the show zips along at a pace that is mesmerising so that with its songs, dance, music, glitz and glamour, Chicago remains one of the finest shows around, and this production does nothing but embellish its reputation still further.
Related: Chicago review from Liverpool 2007