The story of Prohibition-era murder and intrigue is currently playing at London’s Phoenix Theatre with Ruthie Henshall, Josefina Gabrielle, Sarah Soetaert and Hollywood’s Cuba Gooding Jr filling the lead roles of Mama Morton, Velma, Roxie and Billy Flynn.
The production is basically the same as it was in previous runs but that’s hardly a problem – Chicago is packed full of energetic songs and ballsy choreography and doesn’t need updating in order to reward audiences with a great night out.
The three leading ladies are all veterans of the production – Henshall’s previously played both Velma and Roxie and co-stars Gabrielle and Soetaert have both starred as Roxie.
Henshall is perhaps slightly too soft and likeable as Morton, but otherwise delights, while Gabrielle and Soetaert both deliver confident performances that repeatedly wow.
As for leading man, Gooding Jr – too much has been made elsewhere about his sometimes flat singing.
It’s true that he sometimes struggles to do justice to Flynn’s signature tune ‘Razzle Dazzle’, but he puts in a more than acceptable rendition of ‘Both Reached For The Gun’, keeping up seemingly effortlessly with the song’s increasingly frantic pace.
No, for me the issue wasn’t the actor’s singing but a sometimes too casual performance of the character which at times lapsed into ‘cheeky chappie’ rather than the stylish and slick swagger the character calls for.
Basically he needs to be a lot less Marc Warren in Hustle and a bit more Larry Hagman in Dallas.
And it’d probably help if he didn’t, at times, give the impression of feeling like he doesn’t belong on the stage, something that’s especially noticeable alongside the easy confidence shown by his co-stars.
Tickets and booking info: chicagothemusical.com