THEATRE REVIEW: Chicago starring Alexandra Burke at the Phoenix Theatre


WHERE?: Phoenix Theatre WHEN?: 13/8, Ms Burke appearing until 14/10/18

RUN TIME: 2 hours and 20 minutes (including 20-minute interval)

This production won middling reviews when it opened earlier this year starring Hollywood’s Cuba Gooding Jr but it was only until the casting of Alexandra Burke, who debuted tonight, that we were persuaded through its doors.
  • Read on for reasons including all the opening night gossip featuring Martin Kemp as Billy Flynn

We were in the front row and the production won a standing ovation from an enthusiastic Monday night crowd with Burke giving no clue that she was the newest member of the cast.

The classic Kander and Ebb musical is based on a 1926 play set in Jazz Age Chicago by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about the ‘celebrity criminals’ that she encountered in its courts and their relationship with the press.

It’s a concept that continues to work well over a century later as the idea of ‘celebrity’ and notoriety with the media playing an unfortunate role maintains its relevance.

We first encountered the 2002 film which won 6 Oscars including Best Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones who plays the role of Velma Kelly, who is being tried for murdering the husband who cheated on her.

For us the most interesting thing about the musical, which we saw some years later in the West End, is the dynamic between Burke’s character Roxie Hart (being tried for murdering her lover after cheating on her husband) and fellow inmate Kelly, played here memorably by Josefina Gabrielle.

The supporting cast have strong material also and Mazz Murray brings something fresh to prison guard Mama Morton and Paul Rider’s rendition of Mr Cellophane is a definite highlight. A D Richardson brings a real spark to the piece’s main reporter.

We were surprised Martin Kemp was cast here because, although he has the charisma required to convince as lawyer Billy Flynn, his singing voice was thin.

Burke, however, is well worth the price of admission alone as Hart for the way she combines the intricate and stylised Bob Fosse choreography while continuing to sing her socks off.

What might have been a 3* production without Burke’s presence, earns an extra * here for getting it just right and casting her perfectly in its most showbiz role.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Alexandra BurkeTickets
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