Written by Sooz Kempner

Arts

Why I ❤️ Chicago

Kander and Ebb’s musical is about to embark on a UK tour. Our musicals supremo Sooz Kempner explains why you should get a ticket.

Hayley Tamaddon (Roxie Hart), John Partridge (Billy Flynn) and Sam Bailey (Mama Morton) star in the upcoming production of Chicago. Photo: Dewynters.

Hayley Tamaddon (Roxie Hart), John Partridge (Billy Flynn) and Sam Bailey (Mama Morton) star in the upcoming production of Chicago. Photo: Dewynters.

There’s just something about Kander & Ebb. Few writing teams in musical theatre are as distinctive and their music somehow just doesn’t date. Chicago turned 40 last year but remains as cool, sexy and smart as it did when it opened on Broadway.

A satire on the criminal justice system and the notion of celebrity, it’s just as relevant now as it was in 1975, perhaps even more so. On paper the show is pretty offputting; after all, how are we supposed to get on board when not one character is anything other than a duplicitous egomaniac (yes, even Amos)?

I’ll tell you how: with a score that is flawless and Bob Fosse’s snake-like choreography. You’ll find it impossible not to get swept up in the dark, witty action.

“Sassier than the majority of today’s musicals and with more satirical bite than you can imagine, Chicago is well worth a watch.”

Here’s the story: Roxie Hart has been having it away behind her husband Amos’s back with a playa who has said he’ll make her famous. He won’t make her famous and he breaks up with her, so she shoots him in cold blood. Carted off to the Cook County Jail, Roxie meets another merry murderess, her idol, Velma Kelly. Velma is a nightclub singer and the two women become rivals as they fight for the attention of the lawyer they share, the unscrupulous, ultra-smooth Billy Flynn.

The musical numbers are presented as fantasy cabaret routines and it’s downright crazy to try to pick a favourite so here are the standouts:

Cell Block Tango: As Roxie arrives in prison a group of fellow murderesses all tell their stories, insisting that “he had it coming” every time.

Roxie: Having been coached by Billy to play the sweet innocent victim in court Roxie becomes the toast of Chicago’s media. This sends her ego out of control and in Roxie she fantasises about her future career as a showbiz star.

Mr Cellophane: Roxie’s husband Amos stands by her throughout her trial, delusional and pathetic. Here, in a moment of self-awareness, he realises people can look right through him and never even know he’s there.

Sassier than the majority of today’s musicals and with more satirical bite than you can imagine, Chicago is well worth a watch. Even celebrity stunt casting can’t dampen the appeal of Kander & Ebb’s finest and, if you can’t afford a trip to the theatre, the 2002 Oscar-winning film is well worth a couple of hours of your time.

Sooz picked out some of her favourite, lesser known songs from musicals for us here.
Details of the UK tour of Chicago are here.

@SoozUK

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Written by Sooz Kempner

Funny Women Variety Award Winner 2012. ASDA Kate Bush.