Theatre Reviews

Chicago The Musical: A brilliant production with an outstanding band

To say I was excited to hear Chicago was coming back to the West End was an understatement, I absolutely love everything about the musical and I was pleasantly surprised with the stage show.

Director: Walter Bobbie

Writers: John Kander and Fred Ebb

Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr, Ruthie Henshall, Sarah Soataert, Josefina Gabrielle

Running Time: 2hrs 20mins

Theatre: Phoenix Theatre, London

Most people will know the musical from the 2002 movie adaptation of the stage show and I was unsure as to what to expect from the revival on the West End, but it didn’t fail to live up to the popular movie.

The show follows nightclub sensation Velma (Josefina Gabrielle) who murders her philandering husband, and Chicago’s slickest lawyer, Billy Flynn (Cuba Gooding Jr.), is set to defend her.

But when Roxie Hart (Sarah Soetaert) also winds up in prison, Billy takes on her case as well — turning her into a media circus of headlines.

Neither woman will be outdone in their fight against each other and the public for fame and celebrity.

Although a small stage, the cast is relatively large and includes a number of brilliant dancers – both male and female – but nothing seemed out of place.

When I first sat down in my seat, I was curious as to how each of the memorable songs – including ‘Cell Block Tango’, ‘I Can’t Do It Alone’ and ‘All That Jazz’ – would be brought on to the stage.

It doesn’t often help when a movie adaptation was widely praised, but I tried to see the two as completely different entities and it worked.

You can easily watch both productions and see two different works of art. They are different and similar in their own right.

Although the cast knew the songs and dance routines perfectly, not all of them seemed suited for their roles.

Gooding as Billy Flynn was an unusual choice. There were times were his singing wasn’t the best but I was able to see past that.

He is known for his acting and he didn’t fail to act well and I was surprised to see he wasn’t too shabby when it came to his dancing.

His singing may have let him down at some parts but you cannot knock him for trying and it’s not like Richard Gere has the best voice in the movie either.

Obviously, Ruthie Henshall as Big Mama was brilliant as always and really stole the show when she sang her big number, ‘When Your Good To Mama’, but I wouldn’t really expect anything different from a theatre veteran.

Both leading ladies – Soetaert as Roxie and Gabrielle as Velma – were great in their respective roles, but it often felt Gabrielle struggled to bring the character to life in some of the songs.

But nevertheless, the show didn’t fail to keep the audience laughing – and no doubt singing – throughout.

Without a doubt one of the best things about the production was the jazz band. It’s very rare that a orchestra has such a vital and prominent part in a stage production but Chicago really out did itself.

The band – which is place on the stage rather than in the den – really knew how to get the audience cheering and it was one of the best things, if not the best, about the entire production.

Even the cast members often directly communicated with the band – with some characters even asking for their “exit music”.

What I found I preferred with the stage show to the movie is the humour. There were times were I was laughing hysterically at some of the scenes, despite being in the film as well.

There is something rare and engaging about a live stage show, which is why theatre has and continues to be a fantastic medium for putting on a production.

Anyone who enjoys jazz or the musical should go see the show – which has a limited time on the West End – as it was a truly great night out at the theatre.


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