Whose idea was it to place a 10-piece band centre stage throughout the production of Chicago, which came to the Hull New Theatre on Monday night?
The programme credits a John Lee Beatty as being responsible for “scenic design”. So, Mr Beatty – I doffs my cap, it was a genius move on your part.
The musician backdrop was a major part of this amazing spectacle and wouldn’t have been the same if such talents had been hidden away in an orchestra pit.
All the action takes place in 1920s Chicago, America, as we follow the shenanigans of two prison cellmates – Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly.
Roxie (Faye Brookes) and Velma (Djalenga Scott) are streetwise “broads” and murderers who use their feminine wiles to try to convince a jury to find them innocent.
Of course, they need the services of a corrupt lawyer, and they don’t come more corrupt than Billy Flynn (Darren Day).
However, in order to get Flynn’s attention, the two have to pay big bucks to Matron “Mama” Morton, the head prison warden-cum-talent agent.
Mama (Sinitta Malone) has a soft spot for Roxie and Velma – but only if they cough up.
The road to the pair’s quest for freedom is paved with riotous fun with the best choreography I have seen in any production. And the band played its part, never missing a beat to every step danced.
The show-stopping songs came thick and fast with show-stopping voices to match. Such well-known singalong hits as All That Jazz and Razzle Dazzle were just two of the non-stop tunes that will be in my head for days to come.
But it was Velma and her female cellmates’ rendition of Cell Block Tango that was an outstanding highlight.
However, one “ah” moment came when Roxie’s husband Amos (Joel Montague) sang Mister Cellophane. The lyrics perfectly portrayed his feelings of being “invisible” and he sang it with such poignancy, yet I found it strangely amusing, too.
Visually, the sight of the ostrich feather-waving dancers surrounding Billy Flynn and the antics at Velma’s court appearance were memorable.
Actually, despite the stage setting only featuring the band, a few coloured lights, a couple of ladders and the odd chair for most of the production, it worked.
The costumes, mainly black in colour, cleverly didn’t detract from events on stage.
Space prevents me from naming all the dancers but, needless to say, each and every one showed the most amazing skill.
Brookes, as Roxie, and Scott as Velma, were both tirelessly super-talented, with figures to die for.
And the glamorous Malone was greeted with applause when she first graced the stage, applause she thoroughly deserved in her role as Mama.
Although the speaking voice of one of the leads never carried at times, all singing voices engulfed the theatre. But the show would be nothing without the superb choreography, danced to perfection by all concerned.
Presented by David Ian for Crossroads Live in association with Barry and Fran Weissler. Based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and the book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse.
Running until Saturday, November 13th, 2021, 7.30pm nightly with 2pm matinees on Thursday, November 11th and Saturday, November 13th.
Tickets cost from £20. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 8th November 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★