Touring production seen at the Bristol Hippodrome.
Said to be the ‘sexiest musical ever,’ Chicago makes its way to the Bristol Hippodrome to tell the story of Roxie Hart, a bored housewife who murders her lover, and Vaudeville star Velma Kelly, awaiting trial for double homicide. They are ‘looked after’ in jail by Mistress Mama Morton, and have the silver-tongued prince of the courtroom, Billy Flynn, to defend their cases.
Faye Brookes and Djalenga Scott head up this touring production, as Roxie and Velma, respectively. Both are accomplished in their roles, and Brooke’s comedic timing is spot on. She really shines during two numbers in particular, We Both Reached for the Gun, and Roxie. Liam Marcellino was playing the part of Billy Flynn last night, and again gave an accomplished performance. Sheila Ferguson takes on the role of Mama Morton, but lacked the power and slight threat that character should hold. A directorial choice, no doubt, but the character felt altogether too kind.
Chicago is a well-known musical, its numbers familiar to many, and what’s always made it stand out is the excellent music and choreography. That’s present in abundance here; MD Andrew Hilton does a brilliant job of leading what seems to be a tight-knit orchestra all thoroughly enjoying themselves. The choreography is standout, but sadly not delivered with much drive, determination or passion. Despite its strong and talented leads, Chicago is let down by a lacklustre chorus, who often seemed bored with what they were doing. As a result, the entire show just felt really flat. There were moments of brilliance, and the frustrating thing is that the entire show could be phenomenal if there was just more energy injected into it. Chicago is an absolute gift for a musical theatre performer, but it felt as if the company had looked this gift horse in the mouth.
There could be a million different reasons for this, of course. Right now, with swings covering multiple tracks to make up for cast illness, musical theatre is a draining place to be working. The length of the tour might mean tiredness, boredom and general fatigue have set in. But the fact is, the audience shouldn’t be able to notice. When numbers like Cell Block Tango fall flat, despite strong choreography and vocals, there’s definitely an issue. It would be good to address this now, ahead of the remainder of the tour and the upcoming cast changes take place.