REVIEW: It's not perfect but Chicago brings plenty of pizzazz to Northampton

Sarah Jeffery reviews Chicago at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 10:48 am
Sinitta plays Mama Morton in the show (photo: Matt Crockett)
Sinitta plays Mama Morton in the show (photo: Matt Crockett)

Chicago started with plenty of razzle-dazzle.

And, post pandemic, that is exactly what the packed audience at the Derngate theatre needed.

On a black stage with gold trim, Chicago kicked off with plenty of sass with two iconic opening song and dance numbers, All That Jazz and Cell Block Tango V – the infamous six-chair scene where accused murderesses belt out their innocence.

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Yes we are back in the 1920s – in an era with virtually no moral compass where fame and celebrity are heralded over justice and murder is just another form of entertainment.

On that note, may I introduce you to our two leading ladies, Faye Brookes as Roxie Hart and Michelle Andrews, an understudy for Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly. Roxie Hart is accused of murdering her lover after having tried to pin it on her husband. (She did manage to get him to cough up the dough to pay for a lawyer, played by Darren Day.) The other, Velma Kelly, is accused of shooting dead her married lover.

Best known for her role on Coronation Street, Faye Brookes delivered an excellent performance - being both winsome and pushy at the same time. Michelle Andrews as Velma Kelly also delivered a punchy performance and showed a great vocal range.

Another unexpectedly eye-catching performance came from Roxie’s cuckolded husband Joel Montague who played Amos – who stood out in his cardigan as an innocent, caught up between fame-hungry vixens.

There was plenty to like about this version of Chicago. The Bob Fosse inspired dance numbers performed by a tightly choregraphed ensemble clad in black spandex revealing muscular torsos were a hit and loved by the enthusiastic audience. The showstopping routines certainly gave the show plenty of pizzazz.

The set too was built around the orchestra sitting centre stage, and they were as much part of this as the talented 25-strong ensemble of dancers and actors.

I think the show lost a little of the razzle dazzle about half way through. Although performances were solid and song and dance numbers entertaining, this version of the show didn’t bring anything new.

Strangely enough for me the celebrities Sinitta as Mama Morton and Darren Day as Billy Flynn didn’t quite have the charisma or presence the roles needed to ignite this performance of Chicago. Sinitta delivered a faultless vocal of the the song When You’re Good to Mama but otherwise the performance was a little understated. Darren Day delivered a solid vocal performance yet didn’t quite have the dramatic impact hoped for.

Still, the audience - in numbers I haven’t seen since pre-pandemic days – were on their feet at the end of the show cheering wildly. Some left still singing the songs from the show. One audience member said that they didn’t want to leave. It was great to see a full house!

* Chicago runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday October 9. Visit royalandderngate.co.uk to book.