REVIEW: Chicago, Sunderland Empire, until Saturday, December 3.
Prepare to be razzled and dazzled as the award-winning musical Chicago hits the North East with a bang again this week.
If you missed the acclaimed national tour's run in Newcastle in August, you have another chance to get your act together with a visit to the Sunderland Empire this week.
It's a sassy, sexy, sizzling and sultry show with a string of powerful songs and some dance routines to die for.
Based on the 1920s true story of Chicago's press and public's obsession with women murderesses, creating celebrities out of them and leading to a several acquittals by Cook County juries. This against a backdrop of Prohibition, jazz, guns and gangsters.
At the heart of the plot are two fiesty femme fatales, Roxie Hart (Hayley Tamaddon), who blasted her lover in the head after an argument in her flat, and vaudeville star Velma Kelly (Sophie Carmen-Jones), who murdered her married lover. Both vie for the attention of the press and defence lawyer Billy Flynn, played with considerable panache by smooth operator John Partridge.
Former Coronation Street and Emmerdale actress Tamaddon's beautiful voice holds court in several numbers, particularly Funny Honey and Roxie, while her superb acting, dancing and comic timing made this a stellar performance.
She was matched by Carmen-Jones, who shone brilliantly in I Can't Do It Alone - oh, those moves! The chemistry between the dynamic duo was electric, as they clashed, strutted but ultimately dueted as free women.
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Partridge, who you may remember as one of the judges on BBC's Over The Rainbow, the search for a new Dorothy for The Wizard of Oz, was commanding. Another fine acting and singing performance really and literally hit the heights with a killer note at the end of We Both Reached For The Gun.
Making a guest appearance was platinum-selling singer Mica Paris, as Mama Morton, whose soulful tones took the musical to a new level. What a stunning voice!
The supporting cast also deserve to take a bow - Neil Ditt was fittingly pathetic at Roxie's long-suffering husband Amos, winning the sympathy vote from the audience; AD Richardson sang her operatic heart out as reporter Mary Sunshine; and the wonderful group of dancers and singers.
While the set and costumes were dark, moody and minimalist, playing a huge and central part in the action was the fantastic band, which was on stage in a set of their own throughout, joining in with the scenes and providing a smashing finale to send us on our way - make sure you stay for that bit at the end.
The show seems to peak too early, kicking off with the signature tune All That Jazz, which was never really satisfyingly reprieved, followed shortly afterwards by the defining moment for me - the rendition of Cell Block Tango, during which six of the inmates of Cook County jail tell their tales of woe. But the drama, intrigue, slick choreography, a great version of Razzle Dazzle and humour gripped me through to curtain close.
Chicago plays at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday (December 3). You can buy tickets here or call 0844 871 3022.