Chicago The Musical was in the Grand Opera House from the 6th-11th of June this year, and for those who don’t know anything about it, it is set in Chicago in the 1920s, where murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery are rampant.
I attended a performance of the show on the 10th of June during its one week in Belfast, and in this, I’m going to be giving my thoughts on the performance, as well as telling you whether or not you should go and see it the next time it goes on tour near you.
Chicago follows the story of Roxy Hart (played in the version I went to by Faye Brookes), a wannabe vaudevillian star who murders her lover and is arrested, despite attempting to convince her pushover husband, Amos (Joel Montague in some performances and Jamie Boughan in others), to lie for her.
After she arrives in jail, she meets her hero, Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott), and after they both require the same Lawyer, the greedy and lustful superstar, Billy Flynn (played in some performances by Russell Watson and played in others by Lee Mead).
While Velma goes to enlist the help of Matro Momma Morton (played by Sinitta in this performance) to help change Roxie’s odds, Billy Flynn helps get Roxie into a media frenzie, and she enjoys having all the attention on her. The rest of the show is all about whether Roxie will be found guilty or not, and what happens to those who are so unlucky to be found guilty.
I liked how we were introduced to the main story of the musical within minutes of it starting, during the performance of ‘All That Jazz’. Having listened to the soundtrack a lot before going, I did find myself wanting to start dancing along. But I also liked how there were bits of comedy hidden in the more serious parts as well, which you really get to see after the first murder happens.
The comedy gets slightly darker as the show goes on, starting from when Roxie ends up in jail. I’ve heard the ‘Cell Block Tango’ a lot of times throughout my life, but nothing beats seeing it performed live. The way the women go through the crimes they have committed made them look so bad in a good way, and when we started learning more about their crimes, it was really hard not to laugh.
We were introduced to Billy Flynn soon after, who was carried in by a group of ladies dressed in angel costumes, which I think is a very clever production decision , as it adds to the greed and lustfulness of his character. I loved how Roxie goes about getting him as her and Velma’s Lawyer, the extra details we learn about him in the song ‘All I Care About is Love’ but by far, my favourite part was his performance for the press that we get to see in ‘We Both Reached for the Gun’.
It was interesting watching how Roxie is treated more like a Dummy in that part, and the way it was performed was even better. I feel like we got to see a bit of media training that would be popular in the day, and how this starts to influence further plot points that we see in the musical.
But we soon get to witness how much Roxie enjoys all of the media attention, which was most noticeable during and after the song ‘Roxie’. The song shows Roxie being fascinated about how she has become a celebrity and how everyone is talking about her, which has clearly gone to her head. I found it fun how we got to see Roxy through her point of view, however, which even if not everyone in the audience knows what she’s going through, there are people who will understand her view.
There’s so many other great moments that it’s difficult to go through all of them, but to sum it up, I also enjoyed learning about other characters as well. Away from the parts I have mentioned already, I also enjoyed the performance of Mr Cellophane that we see Amos performing in the second act, the fake pregnancy storyline, the fallout between Roxy and Billy Flynn, the other storylines of the other criminals and the ending when we learn if Roxie is guilty or not guilty.
So overall, I found Chicago highly entertaining, with a good balance between music, comedy and crime. I don’t think there’s anything I didn’t like about the show, and as such, I would rate the performance 5 stars.