Brenda Edwards wows in Chicago: The Musical, at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool

Brenda Edwards stars as Mama Morton

Brenda Edwards stars as Mama Morton - Credit: Filmzy Studios

Chicago: The Musical. Winter Gardens, Blackpool. June28-July 2 

Chicago opens as it means to go on, with a sexy, sassy rendition of ‘All That Jazz’ and it just keeps getting better and better. Set mostly in a women’s gaol in lawless 1930s Chicago – where criminals can become celebrities – it features Roxie Hart, played by Faye Brookes, who hires lawyer Billy Flynn –played by Lee Mead – to get her off a charge of murder and simultaneously make her a celebrity. He’s been successful many times before; his reputation is mustard with the ladies of the gaol but can he work the same magic with Roxie? 

There is a real chemistry between Faye Brookes and Lee Mead, which spills over into all their scenes. They are superbly supported by Djalenga Scott who plays Velma – the most famous inmate until Roxie arrives – and by Jamie Baughan portraying Amos, Roxie’s hapless husband. Brenda Edwards takes the role of prison matron, Mama Morton, presented with the perfect blend of seediness and chutzpah. It’s true, they’re all shady – even murderous – characters, but the audience roots for them all the way.

Lee Mead as Billy Flynn

Lee Mead as Billy Flynn - Credit: Matt Crockett

The production is full of show-stopping songs like ‘Razzle Dazzle’, ‘When You’re Good to Mama’ and ‘Hot Honey Rag’, all accompanied by exciting, eye-popping choreography from both the principals and the exceptionally able chorus. Splits and flips are performed with feline ease and, in sets of complicated moves, not one jazz hand is one second out of sync – even during a set in which Lee Mead finds himself almost entirely covered by burlesque feathers.

Brenda Edwards as Mama Morton

Brenda Edwards as Mama Morton - Credit: Catherine Ashmore

The orchestra is positioned in the middle of the stage surrounded by clever lighting – every musician is visible – inviting the audience to step into the atmosphere of a speak easy bar. Under the direction of musical director Andrew Hilton, the score is full of foot-tapping rhythm and the sound totally fills the theatre. Its central position means actors move around the orchestra and occasionally Hilton makes a comment – or sometimes pointedly doesn’t make a comment – to them. 

Apart from a chair or two, there are few props. They aren’t needed and it means the cast have more room to fill the stage with their wonderful singing and dancing. Costumes are mostly short and black – with plenty of legs on show – but the whole company shines and glitters. In the words of one of the songs, they Razzle Dazzle.