Last night I took a trip to the Sunderland Empire to visit this Ebb and Kander Classic set in 1920’s Chicago. Read on for my 2022 Chicago Review.
The story of alleged murderers Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart two wannnabe showgirls and their search for publicity. Albeit for 15 minutes of fame, it is still very apt in modern society, but just comes in the form of reality tv nowadays.
Helped by Matron Mama Morton whose motto is ‘If you’re good to mama, mama’s good to you’ and representation from lawyer Billy Flynn who will take any case for the love, or money!
A classic, simple stage, with the band visible for the whole production. Steps and ladders are utilised to there maximum and scenes played out in front of the band using the full breadth of the stage.
Lee Mead joined the cast as Billy Flynn at the start of its run here at the Sunderland Empire and being a fan of his I was very happy at the addition. Lee didn’t disappoint, he was smooth as our greasy lawyer that can get you an innocent result as long as he’s paid. After following in the footsteps with the likes od Cuba Gooding Jr, Martin Kemp and Duncan James who have previously held this role in the west end, Meads voice is perfect for his repertoire of songs and had enough charisma to pull it off.
Both female leads were powerhouses and led with great vocal performances. Both excellent vocally and strong in performance.
Billie Hardy stepped up as Roxie Hart for tonight’s performance in place of Faye Brooks, and played it beautifully. The new star of the prison until the next news cycle, she is loud and ruthless in manipulating her story to ensure she’s back in the limelight. Unrepentant for her crime, but manipulative in her pursuit to be known.
Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly starred for me in this. No stranger to the show she has performed as Mona, Liz and Velma in Chicago (West End). The star of the moment until Roxie shows up, she does brilliantly in her portrayal clinging onto any hope she has of staying in the limelight upon release.
Delcyia Belgrave is enjoyable as Mama Morton of whom takes on the role from the recently withdrawn Gemma Collins. Brenda Edwards steps in for two performances on Thursday and Saturday also.
Cause you can look right through me, Walk right by me and never know I’m there. Jamie Baughan played Andy….sorry Amos, and delivered this predictable walkover very well. This naive and forgettable character delivered and got a huge round of appreciation and empathy from the audience for his moment in the spotlight singing ‘Mr Cellophane’.
The ensemble cast contribute hugely too and can be seen side stage through scenes which I liked.
The score is what I enjoy most about this show, and one of the reasons it’s my most watched musical (4th time now). You will continue to love songs like ‘All That Jazz’, ‘Cell Block Tango’, ‘Mister Cellophane’, and ’When your good to mama’. The band deliver this Kander and Ebb deliver score to perfection.
This is a show about sex, manipulation and the quest for fame. For me this show always delivers and continues to ‘Razzle Dazzle’ me! Get along to see it while you can.
CHICAGO will hit Sunderland Empire’s stage from Tuesday 31 May – Sat 4 June 2022. Tickets priced from just £13* are available from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 7615* or online at www.ATGtickets.com/sunderland*
*A £3.65 transaction fee applies to telephone and online bookings. Calls cost up to 7p per minute plus your standard network charge.