Sunderland Empire, 01/06/2022
The show on everybody’s lips… it’s gonna be, Chicago! Stopping by at Sunderland Empire on the 2022 UK Tour of this hit musical, this tour has been hotly anticipated amidst celebrity stunt casting announcements and pull-outs (Gemma Collins who has recently had to resign from the show due to an injury after controversial response to her casting). Set in 1920’s Chicago during an age of prohibition and mob rule, this show focuses on the women of this era who have been jailed on suspicion of killing their lovers, husbands, or husband’s lovers! Our two leading ladies are Roxie Hart (played at this performance by Billie Hardy) and Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott) both accused of murder but with the help of infamous lawyer Billy Flynn (Lee Mead) and some tricks up their sleeves to keep the papers interested, seek to prove their ‘innocence’.
Read on to find out our five reasons to see Chicago!
1. The choreography
The show opens with a fan favourite ‘All That Jazz’ which allows the ensemble to perform the most tight and slick choreography you can imagine, jazz hands included, of course. The cast are in entire unison throughout the whole show and those moments that are supported by a choreographed ensemble really do stand out in this production as they bring such an electrifying energy to scenes and group numbers. To end the show, we are treated to a classic dance number between Roxie (Hardy) and Velma (Scott) in ‘Hot Honey Rag’ which was originally choreographed by the late, great Bob Fosse.
2. The unique staging
Not many musicals have the band visible on stage, and none do it the in way that Chicago does. The set is dominated by a huge structure taking up around 80% of the space on stage that houses the 10 piece band and conductor who play an integral part in this show which is written to be like a 20’s Chicago club performance. For a musical that is critically acclaimed for it’s choreography, the structure allows only for a strip of the stage at the very front where the cast can perform. This in no way affects the performances, but enhances how impactful the movements can be in a restricted space.
3. It has a fantastic score
Anyone with the slightest interest in musical theatre will almost certainly have heard some of Kander and Ebb’s songs from Chicago. This musical really is packed with classics, from ‘All That Jazz’ to ‘Cell Block Tango’ and ‘Roxie’, the songs and melodies of those in this show are so infectious it’s no wonder they are so highly regarded amongst the fans. The entr’acte in the second act is a wonderful piece that fully celebrates the talent of the band performing all these numbers, allowing each section of the band a moment to stand out and show off their skills to the adoring audience.
4. It’s pretty funny!
Written by Fred Ebb (who also wrote the lyrics) and Bob Fosse (original coreographer), this show is a lot of fun and has so many little one-liners and comedic moments that keep the momentum of the book with the songs that make this musical famous. The court scene in act 2 stands out as a great comedic part as Roxie Hart (Hardy) is desperate for innocence and fame in equal measures. The character of Roxie has a lot of comic moments through the show that emphasise the characters wit and arrogance, all executed brilliantly by understudy Billie Hardy.
5. Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly
While the entire cast do a superb job, Scott as Velma Kelly really does stand out. As she takes centre stage for her numbers there’s an energy in the auditorium that emerges from her and the performances she gives. Her movement is slick, her wit is sharp and jealous acting is spot on. Scott really is the cherry on the cake of a great show.
Chicago is a musical that spends a lot of time on the many numbers throughout leaving not much time for scenes in between, which marries up very well with the way that it is written to be a ‘club show’. The songs are timeless, the band are fantastic and the choreography is excellent. Make sure you see Chicago at Sunderland Empire until Saturday 4th June or at the other dates on the tour by clicking here!