“Chicago” can hardly be described as bursting with colour with a limited design palette of black, white, grey and occasional splatters of bloody red light during the murders it aims to emulate, perhaps, the movies of the period. More accurately it emulates the still photographs of the newspapers of the period and chooses to present it all in a stilted and, oddly, uninvolving fashion. As the production adopts a distancing alienating technique (I’m guessing more a directorial decision than an authorial one) it deliberately stops us from engaging and empathising with the characters or plot – so all that is left to beguile us is technique and design.
The band dominate the stage sitting like a jazz orchestra trapped in a roll-top desk leaving just a sliver of fore stage for the remainder of the drama, which is deployed with finesse, elan and style, but without heart. Ironically, heart is what we got lots of in the shape of Ms Billie Hardy as Roxie Hart, who, had I not been given a piece of paper informing me she was understudying tonight, I would have guessed had been cast in the lead throughout the tour as she attacked the role forcefully and passionately fighting through the stylistic restrains of the production to give us something to cling to.
Sinitta, Djalenga Scott and Darren Day gave solid and reliable performances which, once again muted by the production, still manage to clearly present the story. Divina De Campo shone out as Mary Sunshine with a character who has a glimmer of connection with the audience and certainly took advantage of what little stage time she had, and Joel Montague as Amos Hart gave us an endearing rendition of Mr Cellophane.
It’s not an emotional rollercoaster and the characters, were they in a realistic setting, are far from appealing, but it’s unique, stylish and contains a brash and ebullient chorus who double, treble and possible quadruple roles to tell the story. It’s big, buoyant, brassy and all that jazz…
Chicago continues at Wolverhampton Grand until Saturday – https://www.grandtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/chicago-2/
Reviewer: Peter Kinnock
Reviewed: 25th October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★