Chicago began touring the UK this September after it finished a 15-year run at the Garrick Theatre in London, and this recent production is a belter. I had been meanly sceptical – the cast comprises ex-soap stars made ‘more’ famous by Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice – yet this proved to be a strong, seamless show which quickly thrust me into the Razzle Dazzle of everything I love about a good musical: it was funny, fast, engaging, energising, ridiculous and unapologetically naughty.The plot is simple: wannabe Vaudeville star Roxie Hart shoots her lover dead and after failing to fool her boring-mechanic husband that she had been defending herself from a burglar lands herself in prison and facing the death sentence. Here she meets Velma Kelly, a former star of the stage also awaiting trial, for killing her husband and sister after finding them in a ‘loving embrace’. The women enter a shameless quest to exploit both the talents of top-lawyer Billy Flynn and the sensation-hungry media to get them off the hook. Such a scenario could lead to an intellectual exploration of the truth-media-fame-money relationship; however, and thankfully, instead what unfolds are countless beefy, show-stopping numbers which are not so much fuelled by a need to debate the virtues or otherwise of resisting fame and seeking honesty as they are intent on sharing with you an electric joie de vivre.
Ali Bastian plays a perfectly plucky Roxie and Tupele Dorgu’s Velma is just as gutsy as I was hoping she’d be. Although you could say that their characters are disgustingly self-centred and ambitious, nothing ‘bad’ happens to them as a result and they remain exceptionally likeable, and in fact their ambitiousness serves them well. Chicago somehow manages to stomp over stereotypes and prejudices apparently without having any moral agenda. It’s a blast.