‘Chicago’ review

Theatre, Musicals Phoenix Theatre , Covent Garden Until Saturday January 5 2019
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(12user reviews)
 (© Tristram Kenton)
1/9
© Tristram Kenton Cuba Gooding Jr (Billy Flynn) & Sarah Soetaert (Roxie Hart)
 (© Tristram Kenton)
2/9
© Tristram Kenton Cuba Gooding Jr (Billy Flynn)
 (© Tristram Kenton)
3/9
© Tristram Kenton
 (© Tristram Kenton)
4/9
© Tristram Kenton Emma Harris, Nicola Coates, Chelsea Labadini, Michelle Antrobus, Natalie Bennyworth & Frances Dee
 (© Tristram Kenton)
5/9
© Tristram Kenton
 (© Tristram Kenton)
6/9
© Tristram Kenton Josefina Gabrielle (Velma Kelly)
 (© Tristram Kenton)
7/9
© Tristram Kenton Sarah Soetaert (Roxie Hart) 
 (© Tristram Kenton)
8/9
© Tristram Kenton Sarah Soetaert (Roxie Hart) & Josefina Gabrielle (Velma Kelly)
 (© Tristram Kenton)
9/9
© Tristram Kenton Sarah Soetaert (Roxie Hart)

Book theatre tickets

The deathless Kander & Ebb long-runner is back in the West End, now starring Martin Kemp

Kander & Ebb’s ‘Chicago’ is, in a certain light, an unlikely West End long-runner. Jagged, cerebral, jazz-inflected and cynical, it is much darker and weirder than its fellow distance-going hits. Gone the distance it has, though: the 1996 Broadway revival of the sardonic ‘20s-set show is still on over there and lasted almost 15 years in the West End before having a lie-down for a few years.

Great original reviews, an iconic design, the successful 2002 film version and general good fortune have played their parts. But regular infusions of celebrity blood have accounted for a lot: by the end of its last West End stint it had entered a semi-zombiefied state, a smart, sophisticated musical now propped up by household names who rarely had the chops to do it justice.

Thus it proves upon its return. Academy Award-winner Cuba Gooding Jr has been cast in the role of louche lawyer Billy Flynn. He’s... okay. He can’t really sing but he has a rumpled, unaffected charisma that at least makes him likeable. His presence hardly feels like event theatre, though: he’s here to get bums on seats, not fuck with the show’s formula.

Experienced musical theatre performers and ‘Chicago’ veterans Sarah Soetaert and Josefina Gabrielle hold down the main parts of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, feuding femme fatales in Prohibition-era Windy City. And they’re solid: the show retains a classy edge and strong fundamentals, not least because of the high kickin’ choreography, styled after that of the show’s original director Bob Fosse.

But in many other respects, it’s starting to show its age. The aggressively sexy/‘sexy’ black mesh costumes feel like the paraphernalia of a bygone, lairier era. The commentary on the relationship between infamy and actual fame feels somewhat unsophisticated in the age of Trump. And like Stephen Daldry’s production of ‘An Inspector Calls’, it just feels like it’s cock-blocking fresh takes on a piece that’s really too smart to spend the rest of eternity locked in 1996.

This review is from April 2018. The current cast now features Martin Kemp (as Billy Flynn); Alexandra Burke will play Roxie Hart from 13 August to 14 October. Check official website for full cast details; Duncan James will take over the role of Billy Flynn from Sep 10.   

By: Andrzej Lukowski

Posted:

Venue name: Phoenix Theatre
Contact:
Address: 110
Charing Cross Road
London
WC2H 0JP
Transport: Tube: Leicester Square/Tottenham Court Road
Price: £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins
Event phone: 0844 482 9673
Event website: http://www.nimaxtheatres.com
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    • Phoenix Theatre £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins Buy tickets
    • Phoenix Theatre £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins Buy tickets
    • Phoenix Theatre £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins Buy tickets
    • Phoenix Theatre £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins Buy tickets
    • Phoenix Theatre £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins Buy tickets
    • Phoenix Theatre £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins Buy tickets
    • Phoenix Theatre £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins Buy tickets
    • Phoenix Theatre £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins Buy tickets
    • Phoenix Theatre £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins Buy tickets
    • Phoenix Theatre £26-£66. Runs 2hrs 25mins Buy tickets
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Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:6
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|12
1 person listening
tastemaker

Definitely enjoyed this show, cast was brilliant and acting, dancing was great. Love the songs as well, definitely an enjoyable time and one of the best musicals so far.

Tastemaker

Not having seen the film for some years, it was nice having my memory refreshed at the theatre.

The two leading actresses who played Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly delivered the roles perfectly with their incredible voices and perfectly executed dancing.

Providing the eye candy; Martin Kemp played Billy Flyn and unfortunately this was all he brought to the show. Despite his previous fame as a member of a band; his singing wasn’t great, as was his American accent.

It was great to see the band on the stage rather than beneath it and loved their interactions with the actors!

All round a great night out and hopefully Kemp practices his accents a bit more!

tastemaker

It is not often I would say the film is better than the play but in this case I am sad to say I preferred the film. The musical was good and loved hearing all the classic songs, bring back childhood memories of watching this film. However for me the wow factor was missing.

Tastemaker

This was a fun and interest production of Chicago, that was fairly similar to the movie version. I always come out of these musicals asking myself - do I want to go and watch the original movie? In this case, no. I really enjoyed everyones's performances, from Martin Kemp to the female leads. Is it particularly original and deviate from the movie? Not really - but that doesn't change the fact it's a great show packed with killer songs, and a cast that exude confidence and sexiness on stage! 

tastemaker

Despite the mixed reviews I was really excited to see this show. I saw the film a long long time ago so I couldn't remember much about it.

The show is raunchy but classy and it's two female leads are impressive. It's brave to have a show where the main characters aren't really likeable but they're a force to be reckoned with. The choreography was great, the acting and singing also great.

Great with the exception of Martin Kemp, who unfortunately was the weak link. He wasn't awful but a little wooden in his acting. I didn't feel like he had really grasped the character he was trying to play and is much better suited to playing a "nice guy" type instead.

That aside though the show was great and though slightly old fashioned now, the themes are more relevant than ever - desperate women doing whatever they need to do to get famous - just replace newspapers with social media.

tastemaker

After watching the film so many times when I was younger, it was great to hear all those familiar songs come alive on stage. The dancing and singing was amazing, however I feel the second half was much more entertaining and kept me on my toes, it also helped seeing Martin Kemp break out a note or two on stage! 

My only slight negative is that I felt like the show was pretty long, it started at 7:30 and ended at 09:50 (there was a 15 minute interval), however my concentration span is pretty short so I found it difficult sitting in a hot theatre for all that time. 


Great show, the performances were outstanding and kept me entertained throughout. Martin Kemp = Silver Fox, lets end it with that. Highly recommend to watch it if you get a chance. 


Loved loved loved the show. Fantastic dancing, great singing, plenty of laugh out loud moments and beautiful Martin Kemp. I'll leave it there...

Tastemaker

Chicago is a classic musical and it was nice knowing what to expect and not being disappointed.

There's nothing remarkable about this version of Chicago and it would have been nice if the stage production was a little grander but I found it to be incredibly entertaining. If you are familiar with the show then I can see how it could feel dated but for me that was part of the appeal.

Plus it was a bonus to see Cuba Gooding jnr on stage and he did not disappoint.

tastemaker

And about Chicago the musical.

In my view it's overrated and outdated. It's still a good musical but the WOW factor is missing. I know that this production runs for more than 20 years but they could have re-looked at the staging and costumes. It doesn't have to be all black/red coloured. And the huge orchestra podium which occupies the whole stage? All is left for the performers is a narrow strip at the edge of the stage. They could have done something more clever. Cuba Gooding was good and so were other actors, it's not their fault that the production is a bit flat. I enjoyed the show but not as much as expected.
tastemaker

My friend took me to see this show.. I went in blindly as I'd never seen the movie or any kind of remake/adaptation of it whatsoever.

I thoroughly enjoyed it!!! The songs were catchy and the women danced very well.

My only criticism would be that there wasn't enough effort staging wise. I would've loved to see different sets and costumes but they remained the same the whole time.

My friend said the movie was better but since I havent seen the movie this hit the spot for me :)