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Chicago – give them a show that’s so splendiferous!

CHICAGOMurder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery…no, this isn’t a day at the office, this is the international award-winning musical Chicago, which opened in the Royal & Derngate last night. I was lucky enough to bag me some red hot seats and had a great view of the whole fishnet-fun extravaganza (did Mr Muddy take his eyes of the stage? Did he nelly; and who can blame him, some of those legs went on forever)!

I’m sure most of you know a little about the story, or watched the film with Zellwegger, Zeta-Jones and Gere (which incidentally, I bloomin’ loved). It’s based on events in the roaring 1920s, and is actually a very good yarn indeed. It revolves around nightclub singer Roxie Hart who shoots her lover, then along with cell block rival, double-murderess Velma Kelly, fights to keep off death row with the help of smooth talking lawyer, Billy Flynn.

CHICAGO. John Partridge as 'Billy Flynn'. Photo by Catherine Ashmore (2)EastEnders star John Partridge (last seen at Royal & Derngate as Prince Charming in Cinderella) stepped into the shoes of Billy Flynn, and I have to say, I was somewhat skeptical before the show. But blow me if he wasn’t an excellently camp Billy Flynn (just the right amount of over-acting/raised eye-brow to audience). And boy has that bloke got a set of pipes! He’s no stranger to the stage with shows under his belt including Cats and Miss Saigon and most recently Zach in A Chorus Line at the London Palladium and you could really tell (I felt very safe in his stage presence).

Hayley Tamaddon (Delilah Dingle in Emmerdale) is the official Roxie Hart, but we had the understudy Lindsey Tierney who more than carried off feisty Roxie, especially considering the size of the part. If I were being really picky, she sometimes looked a bit less strident than Sophie Carmen-Jones as Velma, but then she probably hasn’t had the same amount of practice hours with the troop and Carmen-Jones was particularly top-notch (with more than a little of the Catherine Zeta Jones about her). X Factor winner – and once upon a time real life prison warden – Sam Bailey, rocked the boards as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, a role she was born to play (in make-up she looks at least 20 years older than she is and nails Mamma Morton’s ‘looking after my girls’ vibe).

CHICAGO. Sam Bailey as 'Mama Morton' and Sophie Carmen-Jones as 'Velma Kelly. Photo by Catherine AshmoreThe Derngate was heaving (still managed to get a cheeky glass of vino) and the broad demographic is a clear indicator of the popularity of Chicago (and the popularity of John Partridge; there were quite a few fans)! The ensemble cast were stars in themselves and really made the show with some truly jaw dropping numbers (Cell Block Tango, When Velma Takes The Stand amongst others…). Partridge and Tierney had the audience captivated in We Both Reached for The Gun (the one where Roxy is a puppet to Flynn’s puppet master), and special mentions to A D Richardson who plays reporter Mary Sunshine (very ‘now’ in the current climate, but I won’t spoil the surprise) and Neil Ditt as Amos Hart (a beautifully, self-effacing performance as Roxie’s downtrodden husband Amos – Mr. Cellophane). The dance moves had the audience jiggling their hips throughout and another special mention to the elderly gentleman in the middle of row G; I don’t know what the cast would have done without your sing-a-long support ; )

CHICAGO. John Partridge as 'Billy Flynn'. Photo by Catherine AshmoreBut hey, what’s Chicago if not to belt out those numbers? Created by the musical theatre talents of John Kander, Fred Ebb and legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, the sexy, sassy score is almost impossible not to join in with (as they sing in the show, give ’em the old razzle dazzle and they’ll beg for more)!

Let us know if you make it along, it would be great to hear if you loved it as much as we did. Mr Muddy and I are still singing along, much to the annoyance of everybody else in the house *waves them off to school with excellent jazz hands…

Chicago is on the Derngate stage until Saturday 28 May. Tickets priced from £17 to £42.50 can be booked by calling Box Office on 01604 624811 or online at Derngate

Note: Sam Bailey is not scheduled for all performances, check website for more deets.



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