Darren Day as Billy Flynn. Pictures: Tristram Kenton

Chicago - the musical

Wolverhampton Grand


Give ‘em the old Razzle dazzle, Razzle dazzle ‘em and that’s exactly what we got from the moment the music began with the iconic and a personal favourite, All that Jazz.

Wolverhampton Grand has been transported to the jazz filled, roaring 1920s of Chicago, Illinois for this UK tour. The staging is simple yet sexy, with a sloping black bricked box as the centre piece, housing the brilliant conductor and his ten piece orchestra and using only chairs and ladders to denote the various changes of scene.

The cast are alluringly dressed in black throughout, with an atmospheric lighting design and smoky filled stage all helping to create a seductive, yet seedy ambience.

This musical classic is based on real life stories from junior Chicago Tribune reporter, Maurine Dallas Watkins who was assigned to cover the trials of women who were accused of murder. Watkins herself turned her tales into a play which was subsequently adapted for a musical in 1975 by John Kander and Fred Ebb, with original choreography by Bob Fosse and has been wowing audiences all over the world ever since.

This is a musical with an exceptional score that doesn’t age and features renowned musical numbers, including All that Jazz, Cell Block Tango, Razzle Dazzle and When you’re good to mama to name a few. Under musical direction from Andrew Hilton the orchestra are a joy, with particular mention for the Entr’acte and playout which were certainly a highlight of the evening.

Velma Kelly 

Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly with The Company

The show is brought to life magnificently with iconic choreography that never fails to impress, based on the original work of the incredible Bob Fosse and re-created beautifully by Gary Chryst. It is sensual, slick and oozes sex appeal, capturing the very essence of the prohibition style perfectly and at times makes you feel as though you’ve just stepped into an orgy. 

The piece centres around Roxie Hart, who we meet during the opening number as we witness her murdering her lover, Fred Casely. Husband, Amos initially tries to take the blame for her but she is subsequently sent to Cook County Jail where she awaits trial. In jail, she meets Mama Morton who introduces her to the highly reputed defence lawyer, Billy Flynn, who will do anything he can to get her released for the fee of $5000. Jail inmate and wannabe Vaudeville star, Velma Kelly, loses her place in the spotlight on the arrival of determined Roxie. 

Roxie was performed by talented understudy, Billie Hardy who plays the role beautifully, with a coy innocence and magnetic charm; more than holding her own against Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly. Scott is a sensational Velma, funny and sharp, with strong vocals and footwork throughout. The pair worked well together to lead what is a star studded cast.  

Former pop star and TV personality, Sinitta Malone plays Matron Mama Morton. Overall her vocals were great but her big number, When you’re good to mama seemed to be lacking the power it needed to hit the mark. It was certainly a gentle portrayal of Mama, not quite So Macho as some of her predecessors but undoubtedly the most glamorous version we’ve ever seen and Sinitta was clearly loved by the audience.

Darren Day is well cast as the handsome and desirable, Billy Flynn; his character is spot on and his vocals are effortless. With flamboyance and flair he delivers an excellent performance.

joe montague

Joel Montague as the show's Mister Cellophane

Divina De Campo provides some fabulous moments as the gorgeous red headed, Mary Sunshine. She delighted the audience with her impressive high soprano voice, four-octave range and a comedy addition to the script that we won’t spoil! The only pitfall is that we don’t get enough of her.

Joel Montague gives a standout performance as the invisible, Amos Hart, his character is vulnerable, endearing and brings warmth to the production. He delivers a heartfelt rendition of Mister Cellophane and is perhaps the only character that the audience truly cares about at all. When he asks for his exit music and is completely ignored, it is heart breaking and the aahs could be heard throughout the audience.

The cherry on the top of this high kicking and feisty musical has to be the specatuclar ensemble. Every move is on pointe, perfectly placed and executed with precision and energy. With some excellent individual performances and strong vocals they are simply outstanding.

Set against a gritty, yet glitzy 1920s backdrop, with plenty of show stopping numbers and toe tapping tunes, this production is irresistible and the perfect recipe to warm up a cold October evening and things really do heat up pretty quickly.

It felt good to be sat in the auditorium watching such an exciting piece of theatre, the atmosphere both on and off stage was electric. It would be a crime to miss it while it’s at the Grand this week, To 30-10-21.

Emily and Dexter Whitehead


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