Review: Chicago lit up by the Razzle Dazzle

Cell Block Tango introduces the girls who are in Chicago's jail.



Grand Opera House, Belfast

Until Saturday June 11

IT'S not surprising that Chicago the Musical has been running round the world for almost 50 years. The music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and the choreography by Bob Fosse are constant - it's the cast that give the show something extra special.

The story is based on actual crimes reported by journalist Maurine Dallas Watkins in the 1920s (B E Wong played her character Mary Sunshine with surprising results) including a murder by a young woman of 23 who became the character Roxie Hart (Billie Hardy) and her cell mate Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott).

They each killed their lovers and ended up in jail. There's a tussle between them to gain the public sympathy and be freed to pursue a career in vaudeville.

They pin their hopes on money-fixated slimy lawyer Billy Flynn (Liam Marcellino) who brings the stage alight as he supports the girl most likely to get off and promises to get them maximum publicity to follow their dreams.

This production is visually impressive; black is the dominating colour and fishnets and skimpy costumes the fashion. The boys are finely toned and the girls slim and supple and all are on top form in the Opera House. They move seamlessly from inmates in the jail, to journalists on the prowl, to members of the crowd.

Throughout they are all belting out the famous songs - All That Jazz, the sinister Cell Block Tango, Razzle Dazzle and the rest - but the audience on the opening night in Belfast just loved one character more than any other, Amos Hart, husband of the two-timing Roxie.

He's a big comfortable man who loves his wife but she isn't interested in him and he sings of his life in the pathetic Mister Cellopane: "Cellophane, Mr Cellophane shoulda been my name, Mr Cellophane 'cause you can look right through me, Walk right by me and never know I'm there."

Jamie Baughan, who has a powerful voice, got a huge round of applause and the sympathies of the audience.

Mama Morton (Sinitta Malone) is the matron of the women's jail and she plays one of her charges off against the other sometimes with disastrous results, but she's nice and sweet rather than the sinister figure I've seen in past productions.

Great staging and lighting and as for the band on stage - they were stupendous and the audience gave them a standing ovation. Very much part of the show, they certainly gave us the Razzle Dazzle to take home.

Anne Hailes

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