Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Review: Chicago (UK Tour) at the New Wimbledon Theatre

Chicago (UK Tour) 
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 22nd February 2016

With the Broadway production having celebrated its 8,000th performance over the weekend, Chicago has made its long awaited return to the UK for a new tour. Revolving around jailbirds Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly and their hunger for fame, the show - which was famously adapted into a film in 2002 - still feels very relevant in 2016.

It's time to hold my hand up and admit to only having seen Chicago on stage once before, at the Leicester Curve in 2013. I love the show - from the moment the lights go down there is something very exciting about waiting for the opening notes of 'All That Jazz' to kick in and seduce the audience. John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse's musical is a true classic; Chicago is one of the greatest musicals of all time, it's seductive, influential, irresistible and bursting with style.

Now in its second week, last night this new touring production seemed to have a few teething problems. The choreography remains slick and sexy, but it could be tighter and taken up several notches. I enjoyed some of the iconic numbers such as 'Cell Block Tango' and 'All I Care About', but I wasn't blown off my seat - I'm sure that in a few weeks time everything will settle and the cast will find their flair. 

The main issue last night was the sound - levels were all over the place. The orchestra often overpowered each other as well as the vocals. Everybody's vocal tone sounded noticeably thin - a few seemed to push too hard as if they couldn't hear themselves properly which is such a shame (as soon as the ensemble joined in during 'All That Jazz' and 'Razzle Dazzle' I couldn't hear any of the lead vocals at all).

Perhaps there is a cold going around the cast, perhaps there was a major last minute sound disaster which knocked everybody sideways or maybe I was just unlucky and sat in a bad seat. Whatever the issue, fingers crossed all will be resolved in the near future.

Having the orchestra onstage throughout and using little set gives Chicago a 'concert' vibe (interestingly the 1996 revival that this production is scaled down from was adapted from a concert staging of the show). Under the direction of Ben Atkinson, the musicians were amazing and provided the highlight of the night when they let rip during the act two Entr'acte.

Without doubt the stars of the show were A D Richardson (Mary Sunshine) whose soprano range couldn't be any more impressive and Hayley Tamaddon (Roxie) who owned her solo numbers and aced the style of comedy throughout, whilst Sophie Carmen-Jones proved herself as an incredible dancer, her portrayal of Velma grew as the evening progressed. Aside from a few lyric fluffs, vocal cracks and wobbly accents the cast soldiered through and came into their own halfway through the second act when the show seemed to settle.

I was thrilled to finally see this production of Chicago; as the weeks go by the show will get stronger and stronger - I can't wait to catch it again in a few months time. The score is a dream - you will be humming song after song weeks after.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Chicago runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday 27th February 2016. The tour is currently booking to October 2016, including a visit at the Milton Keynes Theatre between 14th and 19th March. Please visit www.chicagothemusical.com.

Photo Credit: Dewynters

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