Now with added sex, raunchiness and corruption... ; SHOW: NOT THE AVERAGE CHRISTMAS CROWD-PLEASER, BUT CHICAGO IS A MUST- SEEChicago Curve, Leicester, until January 18 Review
When it comes to giving audiences the old razzle dazzle, few do it better than Leicester's theatre director Paul Kerryson.
For more than two decades, he has consistently provided Christmas crowd-pleaser musicals; mostly family favourites packed with classic tunes and heart-warming storylines.
This year though he's returned to Chicago - the first show he ever directed in Leicester and not your average festive fare, laden as it is with merry murderesses and media manipulation. Add in raunchy costumes (or lack of), red-hot choreography and the ear- enticing sleaze of the big brass jazz sound, and you have a musical that's bordering on adults-only.
Based on the real-life stories of Chicago's female killers of the 1920s and the celebrity they gained, Kander and Ebb's score turns each character into a larger-than-life Vaudeville parody, where murder most certainly is an art.
What Kerryson and choreographer Drew McOnie (making his Leicester debut) do is add bags of sex, raunchiness and corruption, yet with such a dollop of fun that you like these incorrigible characters anyway.
Emmerdale star Verity Rushworth's Velma and Gemma Sutton's Roxie are wellmatched as the rival killers, competing for the attention of the media as well as the skills of their lawyer, Billy Flynn, (David Leonard in a performance so slick one wonders that he doesn't leave a trail of oil across the stage).
Sandra Marvin brings the house down as Mama Morton with powerhouse vocals on When You're Good To Mama, while Matthew Barrow gets the same reaction with a diametrically-opposed Mister Cellophane, as Roxie's downtrodden husband, Amos.
Musical director Ben Atkinson's band provides the obligatory fat brass sound, while Al Parkinson's fluid yet effective set allows the story to shift seamlessly between jailhouse, court, home and legal offices.
The 20-strong company work hard yet there was just that indefinable wow factor missing; maybe due to opening night nerves, maybe the show needs a slight increase in volume, maybe even the final polish which only continued performance will provide. It was a good show with plenty of merit, it just needs that extra oomph to elevate it to great.
But as for continuing the tradition of high-standard, mustsee Christmas musicals in Leicester? Kerryson and Curve are guilty as charged.
Follow Lizz Brain on Twitter: @theatreblogger
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