West End Theatre Guide
As the opening line of the musical proudly boasts, Chicago is a story of “murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery”. The musical, which was adapted by Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb, and John Kander from Maurine Dallas Watkins’s play which satirised the women who were made celebrities by their murderous activities, is set in the late ‘20s on the Chicagoan backdrop. Prohibition was at its height in America, but despite governmental policy, bootlegging became America’s most profitable industry and drinking clubs flourished and became an integral part of Chicago culture.
Chicago follows the story of Roxie Hart and her fellow “celebrity murderesses” as they are rocketed into fame due to the public’s obsession with their sensational crimes. Defending these murderesses is Billy Flynn, a lawyer who makes something of a circus of the courtroom, corrupting justice by giving the jury “the old razzle dazzle” with his charms, and he specialises in re-writing the facts of a case to create grounds and context. Looking after the murderesses in jail is Mama Morton, who sets up phone calls, drums up press and tends to the girls while they are on trial.
The darkness of the show stems from the lack of respect for the facts and deliverance of justice, and all anyone cares about is money, fame, entertainment, and self-gain. The musical, indeed, makes a parody of the public’s fleeting attentions, as they constantly search for the next hot, blood-covered court case, leaving the previous sensations as unimportant cast-offs , quite literally old news. Perhaps this is the most disturbing message of Chicago, even more so than committing a crime for personal gain and fame, but the media and public’s fascination with gore.
This production of Chicago is led by Sarah Soetaert (Cats, Carousel, Fame) as Roxie Hart and Josefina Gabrielle (The Box of Delights, A Little Night of Music, Stepping Out) as Velma Kelly, both of whom gave sensation performances which were on point, suitably girlish, and all-smiles for the cameras. Ruthie Henshall (A Chorus Line, Cats, Miss Saigon) gave a classy performance as Mama Morton and excelled with ‘When You’re Good To Mama’. Cuba Gooding Jr (Jerry Maguire (TV), Tre Styles (TV), The Trip to Bountiful) gave a charming performance as Billy Flynn but struggled to hold his own in musical numbers.
Chicago is dark and deliciously intoxicating and seductive, an infinitely sexy show which sparks dreams of jazz, swanky parties and a world where you can literally get away with murder. Standout musical numbers include, ‘All That Jazz’, ‘Cell Block Tango’, ‘Me and My Baby’, and many more, all of which are supported by intricate choreography which draw the audience in and make for a very intimate theatrical experience.