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Chicago, New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham - review

Birmingham | Entertainment | Published:

It's sexy, sultry and spectacular – step into the glittering, glamorous gangster-ruled world of Chicago, featuring at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre.

I must admit I stepped into the theatre not knowing what to expect – I had never seen Chicago, and even did not know what it was about. I was about to have my mind blown.

The titillating show opened with a golden background and a cabaret dancer announcing that this was about to be a show about murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts – my attention was caught.

Enter the world of good-girl-gone-seriously-bad heroine Roxie Hart played by Emmerdale star Hayley Tamaddon. As All That Jazz and the company slink across the stage in jet black lingerie, smoky make-up, pin curls and fedoras the protagonist entered the stage with lover Fred Casely – Before shooting him for trying to leave her, the dog.

Hayley Tamaddon as Roxie Hart and John Partridge as Billy Flynn. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Thus sets off the chain of events that leads to Roxie being hauled off to the slammer and seeking help to clear her name and regain her freedom – gaining adoring fans and her very own show on vaudeville along the way, of course.

Tamaddon executed the dual faces of Roxie expertly - she showed her fear of the law and death coupled with her secret, sinful love of the attention with the subtle raise of an eyebrow, a smirk and a giggle barely caught by the microphones.

Her performance wasn't all subtle however - her voice packed a punch, her dance numbers channelled a sexy energy that had the crowd blushing as she gained her stardom, and she even managed to slide in comical one-liners and sharp-tongued witticisms to incite belly laughs all round.

Battling alongside Roxie for fame and headlines in the newspaper is showgirl murderess Velma Kelly brought to life by the magnificent Sophie Carmen-Jones.

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Sophie Carmen-Jones as Velma Kelly. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Sexy sadist Velma comes to life in Cell Block Tango with her fellow inmates, channelling the darkest of dark humour and the spirit of burlesque to tell the crowd of their crimes – which they definitely did not do.

Carmen-Jones complimented Tamaddon's subtle expressions with loud, accentuated body language. Roxie's black, glitter knee-length dress battled for attention against Velma's short, body-con dress and cheekily flashed stockings. They were yin and yang, chalk and cheese, salt and pepper – and their performances couldn't have worked together any better.

The conflicting personalities and rivalry throughout were mediated by the suave and sophisticated Billy Flynn and the powerful and sassy Matron 'Mama' Morton.

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Top lawyer Billy Flynn played by John Partridge captured the audience in the palm of his hand instantly – hey, even I started to believe Roxie was innocent.

John Partridge as Billy Flynn and Hayley Tamaddon as Roxie Hart. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

His cool charisma, heart-melting winks and sharp suit not only had the onstage press giggling like school girls, but the audience too – and that's before his glass-shattering solos.

The equally powerful Mama Morton, played by Mica Paris, owned the stage the minute her court shoes stepped foot on it. Everything about her performance screamed empowerment – from her pinstripe suit covering a peaking basque, her sassy attitude, love for her inmates and her soul-filled voice.

The show came to a head in a high-octane finale set after both Roxie and Velma's trials as they join forces to create a double-act set to take the world by storm. Complete with dancing, singing and a whole heap of ego as they take their time to repeatedly thank the crowd for their help in their trials, and that if they ever doubt the state of America, that they are glowing examples of the good in America's heart...Indeed.

The show was a jaw-dropping spectacle from start to finish. The majority of the stage itself was taken up by a live orchestra complete with conductor/compare Leon Charles introducing all the ladies and gentleman of the audience to each musical number, something with tongue in cheek commentary.

What's more, the opulent musical numbers were sometimes interjected by hair-raising stunts – notably hanging from ladders and contorting around them, which made my stomach flip in fear! Who expects an element of danger on their night out at the theatre?

For a star-studded night out filled with sex, adultery, murder, crime, showbiz and so much more, head to Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre for Chicago – you will not be disappointed.

Chicago runs at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre from December 13 to December 31

By Becci Stanley

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