An article shared by hundreds, bickered over by thousands, seen by millions. An eponymous offender shoved into the spotlight; immortalised and pigeonholed by facts that aren’t... for a couple of blinks at least, or a hashtag and a mention in the trending bar at most. And all that jazz.
The reason Chicago is the longest running American musical in the history of the West End and broadway is because it’s been able to stay relevant. The influence of tabloid fodder as a vehicle for the everyday celebrity, and their tendency to then reduce that 15 minutes of fame to a mere two or three, has made certain of that. It's arguably more relevant now than it ever has been before.
You can say that there’s less of the razzle dazzle these days, but then again, someone somewhere thought it’d be a good idea to give Katie Hopkins a newspaper column and a radio show. The illogical injustices and backhand, underground thinking that ran through Chicago is alive and unwell today.
But of course that’s not the only appeal of Chicago – the musical story of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, two murderesses awaiting trial in prohibition-era 1920s Chicago, each with their heads in the clouds and their eyes full of stars placed by the fickle, flirtatious, smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn.
After all, who doesn’t love a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery? The modern audience eat it up as quickly now as newspaper readers did back in the 20s.
Sophie Carmen-Jones was the star of the show as Velma Kelly; pitch perfect with a stubborn, supercilious, strutting audacity standing as a fragile shelter over the susceptible insecurity beneath. She conveyed her character’s hubris with style, caught between desperation, resilience and fear.
Hayley Tamaddon was strong as Roxie Hart; the playful yet fiercely ambitious dreamer with a ruthless turn beneath the sweet front, though she perhaps fell short of achieving any character depth or development.
Sam Bailey seemed well cast and comfortable in the role of prison warden Mama Morton; with a huge set of lungs on her, and John Partridge grew into the role of Billy Flynn, at first possibly too aware of acting up on the stage but filling the seductively suave roll with chilling callous by the end.
Flynn and Hart’s ventriloquist act was one of the highlights of the show, and the trial scene was executed to perfection by Partridge and Tamaddon as well, but Carmen-Jones remained the most powerful solo performer.
A strong show driven by sex, seductiveness, sleaze and self-indulgence. Well worth catching before it leaves the capital.