Chicago – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre
By Sandra Callard, May 2022
The revival of any show is risky but always fascinating, so I went along to Leeds Grand Theatre to see the new production of the evergreen show, Chicago. The packed house boded well, with all three tiers of the theatre full as the curtain went up to reveal the Grand’s orchestra on stage rather than down below, and the conductor turning round and waving to us. Great to see this, because this particular orchestra is possibly the best in the country and needs promoting more. They stayed on stage throughout and were rewarded by the appreciative applause of the audience.
Chicago is set around the early twenties during prohibition and covers how women accused of murder, and who were probably guilty, might escape the ultimate sentence with the help of dodgy lawyer, Billy Flynn. He was, surprisingly, played by singer Russell Watson and the part really suited him as he sashayed around the prison planning the case for prisoner Roxie Hart. He played the part with a sophisticated and easy step and grasped the part with both hands as he coached Roxie as to what she should do to escape the rope.
“Gasps of admiration”
Roxie was played with authority and gusto by Faye Brookes, and she absolutely owned the stage. Roxie was just as tricky as Flynn as they planned her deliverance, but Flynn’s main aim was money as he smilingly took every penny he could.
Roxie’s nemesis was another prisoner, Velma Kelly, and they hated one another with a vengeance. Velma was played, sung and danced by Djalenga Scott, and if there is a better dancer than her knocking around I have yet to see her – Scott was superb . Every one of her numerous and complicated steps was sure and solid, even when she was also singing, and she performed moves that I had never seen before, some of which produced gasps of admiration from the appreciative audience – and rightly so.
It was good to see singer Sheila Ferguson in the part of the famous Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, with her splendid voice as good as ever. She sang ‘When You’re Good to Mama’ with strength and fun and I would have liked to have seen her part lengthened.
There were some lovely smaller parts in the show, best of which was the betrayed husband of Roxie, Amos Hart, played with a heartfelt hopelessness by Jamie Baughan. His seasaw love for Roxie was heartbreaking as she played him to the ultimate, and the audience took him to their hearts as he persistently failed in every effort he made regarding her. He was rewarded with fulsome applause at the finale.
This revival of Chicago is a superb theatrical experience.
images: Tristram Kenton