Review: Chicago the Musical at Manchester Opera House

A scene from the International Tour of Chicago The Musical @ King's Theatre, Glasgow.
(Taken 11-09-2

And All That Jazz... - Credit: Tristram Kenton

Last night I saw Chicago the Musical, live onstage, for the first time. It’s got such huge reputation expectations were running high. From the very first note struck by Michelle Andrews, who last night took the lead role of Velma, we knew all hopes were to be met, all expectations fulfilled, and a grand night was in store. 

A scene from the International Tour of Chicago The Musical @ King's Theatre, Glasgow.
(Taken 11-09-2

The choreography and performance is faultless - Credit: ©Tristram Kenton

Chicago starts big. There’s no slow build to the first big number; it’s all systems go from the opening scene, as the inmates of Cook County Jail deliver All That Jazz. You can see from the opening bars that this cast is jam packed with talent and skill – and have worked hard to make this show one the legend Bob Fosse himself would be proud of.  Limited by space as they are (the bandstand is somewhat vast) choreographer Gary Chrys has turned this into a positive - the dancers are slick, ridiculously cool, precise and controlled. The same goes for the music; a live orchestra set in tiers on the stage, and so forming part of the drama, produces the incredible sounds of the jazz era right in front of our eyes. The lighting, the set, the sound, the dance, the songs, the storytelling – it's all done to perfection. 

From All That Jazz we slide swiftly into Cell Block Tango, where six women tell us just why he had it coming. If the noises around me were anything to go by, half the audience were hard-pressed not to join in.  

A scene from the International Tour of Chicago The Musical @ King's Theatre, Glasgow.
(Taken 11-09-2

Faye Brooks, right, plays Roxie Hart, who has committed cold blooded murder yet seeks to be acquitted - Credit: ©Tristram Kenton

Michelle Andrews nails the role of Velma. We are all familiar with the term ‘triple threat’ - the performers who can sing, and dance, and act. Michelle has great comic timing, too, as well as a voice that could, and did, have the entire audience holding its breath. If we thought that this was as good as Chicago could possibly get, then we met Roxie, played by Faye Brooks, and she was utterly brilliant too. There’s a lot of comedy in this role, and a lot of that is physical. The performance with her lawyer Billy Flynn, where she plays his ventriloquist's dummy (to prevent her from saying something stupid to the press) is hugely physical, as she flops about, body and head rolling. I hope she has a good physio. It’s a fabulous performance; brilliantly funny and precisely delivered. 

A scene from the International Tour of Chicago The Musical @ Milton Keynes Theatre.(Taken 10-03-202

Sheila Fergusson, as Mama Morton, and Michelle Andrews, as Velma Kelly - Credit: Tristram Kenton

We were also treated to the marvellous Sheila Ferguson, of The Three Degrees fame, as doyenne of Cook County Jail, Mama Morton, and she totally lived up to expectations. 

There’s not a negative to be found in the production and performance of this touring version of Chicago the Musical. It’s a joy to witness. 

Chicago the Musical runs in Manchester till Saturday 28 May, book your tickets online