In a welcome break from the usual steady stream of pantomimes and children’s productions, the New Alexandra Theatre takes a trip back to the Roaring Twenties this Christmas with Chicago. However, similar to many pantos, this production features a star-studded cast, including Hayley Tamaddon, John Partridge and popstar Mica Paris.
Sleek and sexy, one of the hallmarks of Chicago is the iconic choreography, originally produced by the legendary Bob Fosse. The subtle, stylised movements are performed effortlessly by the highly talented cast, with an air of cool sophistication and unassailable allure. Large group numbers such as “We Both Reached For The Gun” and Roxie’s trial scene are highlights of the show. The timing and synchronicity in these complex combinations of song, dance and mime is spot-on, evoking a precise, polished performance that glitters like a vaudeville variety show.
John Partridge’s Billy Flynn is undoubtably the greatest showman of Chicago, oozing charisma and charm throughout the big band numbers “All I Care About Is Love” and “Razzle Dazzle”. A seasoned musical theatre professional, Partridge’s vocal performance is confident and assured; his unbelievably long note at the end of “All I Care About Is Love” draws gasps and spontaneous applause from the audience. He conveys Flynn’s enigmatic yet threatening personality, blending an easy-going roguish charm with a steely-eyed glare.
Hayley Tamaddon is endearing as Roxie Hart, with a goofy giggle and wide-eyed amazement at her new found fame and publicity. Her rich vocals are especially beautiful in “Funny Honey”, before she berates her husband Amos (the hapless and engaging Neil Ditt) with comic exasperation. Sophie Carmen-Jones’ Velma presents a thrilling contrast; ice-cold sophistication with sensually curved movements and an artfully raised eyebrow.
Mica Paris’ strong, soulful voice is infinitely suited to Mama Morton’s iconic solo “When You’re Good To Mama”, belting the chorus with stunning power and accuracy. However, her performance is marred by stilted and underdeveloped characterisation, with gestures that look too rehearsed and unnatural.
The orchestra are on stage throughout, with musical director and conductor Leon Charles acting as compere, interacting with the cast and introducing particular numbers as if they are comic sketches. Every member of the orchestra is an integral member of the cast, playing the jazz music with style and aplomb, even letting their hair down in a dancing curtain call.
With its monochrome set design, scorching hot jazz score and impeccably performed Fosse choreography, Chicago is an alluring antidote to the absurdities of panto, conjuring all the glamour and excess of the Roaring Twenties.
Chicago is at New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 31 December, and tickets are available here.