For Chicago to succeed on stage it requires not only charismatic principal characters but a full ensemble of strong singers, musicians and dancers. This touring production has this, and it is quite right that every performer was introduced by name for the curtain call. They all deserved their individual and collective recognition by what was a cheering audience.
Djalenga Scott and Faye Brookes
Star billing has to be the two anti-hero heroines Roxie and Velma, and Faye Brookes and Djalenga Scott respectively, carved out distinctive personas. They have engaging personalities from the start, both sassy and smart, complementing one another rather than competing although in the musical it is is, of course what they do. Brookes has legs that seem to go on for ever and her dance routines are sensational. She has the ideal combination of slapstick, sexiness and style. Brookes brings a more sultry characterisation of Roxie with her velvety voice. She comes over as a darker and deeper character in this dark and dangerous jazz age musical black comedy.
The contrasting but complimentary voices mean the two leading ladies harmonies are sublime.
Faye Brookes and her boys
Lee Mead plays the part of slick and rather slimy Billy Flynn for the Cardiff run, and he can certainly sign those smooth numbers. However, the knockout voice of this cast is Brenda Edwards as Mama Morton, a performer capable of humour and edginess and vocally both powerful and, as seen with the duet with Velma, elegant.
Jamie Baughan plays Amos with a portrayal that emphasises the pathos of the role engendering a response of pity for his endearing naivety. The more difficult character of Mary Sunshine is performed by B E Wong.
The other murderesses shine in the glorious Cellblock Tango and, to return to the start of this review, the ensemble delighted with the clever ‘We Both Reached For The Gun’ along with taking a plethora of roles as the fast paced story whizzed along. Jazz hands to Ishmail Aaron, Michelle Andrews, Gabby Antrobus, Delycia Belgrave, Joel Benjamin, Tanisha-Mae Brown, Daniel Clift, Callum Fitzgerald, Emily Goodenough, Billie Hardy, Aaron Jenkins, Liam Marcellimo, Theo Reece, Hollie Jane Stephens and Harrison Wilde.
Andrew Hilton conducted a lively and engaging band who are on stage throughout, becoming part of the visual performance as well as bringing John Kander’s intoxicating score to life.
There is not a moment your attention is not locked into this professional and polished production.
Until June 25
Main image: Djalenga Scott.
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Cast details: Chicago at the New Theatre, Cardiff cast anouncements