Two for the price of one - that’s the deal with the Creagh/Carr Review. Opinions from seasoned hackette Bev Creagh mingled with those of ace young reporter Stewart Carr, who attended the opening night of Chicago at Milton Keynes Theatre.
CREAGH SAYS .... Chicago is always a delight - and I’ve seen it more times than I care to remember.
It doesn’t matter if those playing the key roles of murdering seducers Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, plus smoothie lawyer Billy Flynn, aren’t up to muster because the story rollicks along at such a cracking pace there isn’t time to nit pick their performance.
And what a story it is! Naughty girls who engage in extra marital nookey, shoot their lovers or husbands and then hire Billy Flynn to defend them.
One of the show’s best numbers - and it has an almost unfair collection of popular tunes - is Cell Block Tango when the jail birds, to a woman, claim they weren’t to blame: “He had it coming.”
Sophie Carmen-Jones as Velma is slinky and sexy and can vamp it up with the best of them. But she mumbles her words and is often drowned by the orchestra - a 10-piece band and conductor in an amphitheatre arrangement on stage with the action taking place around them.
Hayley Tamaddon steals the show as Roxie. She sings beautifully, has a wicked sense of timing and is an accomplished dancer.
Interesting to note that in spite of being a former X Factor winner, Sam Bailey as Mama Morton does not have a striking voice - that accolade goes to A D Richardson as journalist Mary Sunshine.
EastEnders star John Partridge makes a good fist of Billy but again disappoints in the voice department.
But all-in-all, a fabulous evening’s entertainment.
CARR SAYS .... Chicago is one of those shows you can bet money on will always be a good night.
The clever tale of two showbiz jailbirds who (literally) get away with murder is bound to entertain whoever takes on the lead.
Cute little ingenue Roxie Hart (Hayley Tamaddon) is charged with the murder of her lover and knows just how to hoodwink those around her.
In jail, she meets her match in smouldering nightclub queen Velma Kelly (Sophie Carmen-Jones) charged with the murder of her sister and husband.
It’s a clash of operatic proportions with two diva personalities striving to maintain the lead throughout.
Their salvation comes in the form of celebrity lawyer Billy Flynn (John Partridge) who offers a way out for both of them.
Tamaddon is wonderful as Roxie, cute and kitsch with a rich singing voice that manages to rise above the belting live orchestra.
Carmen-Jones and Partridge are also good in their roles, although Carmen-Jones seems at times too young and girlish to embody the dark, self-assured Velma Kelly.
I took issue with the costumes - which focused too much on the skimpy sheer tight, velvet and leather gear of the ensemble. There was not enough glamour for the main characters, whose outfits looked more bland 1990s than swinging 1920s.
But that’s a minor quibble. Witty, below-the-belt and decadent – this is one show absolutely worth seeing.
Chicago plays at Milton Keynes Theatre until March 19. See here for tickets.