Glam, jazz and razzmatazz rocked the Opera House in Manchester last night (March 21), as Chicago opened in the city with an all-star cast that never once failed to impress.

Credit: Catherine Ashmore

Credit: Catherine Ashmore

Finding its roots in the real Chicago of the early 20th century, the show gains inspiration from events that took place in 1924, when gangsters played a huge part in running things. Cook County Jail housed over a dozen women on 'murderess row' and it's a fictional look at some of those women that's explored within this musical.

Hayley Tamaddon and Sophie Carmen-Jones take centre-stage as Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly respectively. Both taken to prison for crimes they almost certainly did commit, the pair fight for the attentions of crminal lawyer Billy Flynn, played by John Partridge, whilst also vying for the spotlight of the media.

Those who may have doubted Tamaddon's ability in theatre would be shot down within seconds of her beginning her performance. She's a force to be reckoned with on the stage, confident, funny and the perfect fit for Roxie Hart. Similarly, Carmen-Jones shows exactly why she picked up the role of Velma. Her chemistry with the other ladies is beyond doubt and her dance moves are sharp, consistently on point and fluid. These are two ladies who have clearly spent a huge amount of time in rehearsals and it has paid off in spades.

Credit: Catherine Ashmore
Credit: Catherine Ashmore

Partridge slips into the role of smooth yet sleazy Flynn very well, with an accent to die for and a couple of infectious numbers. When he's working with Roxie and Mary Sunshine along with the company on 'We Both Reached For The Gun' he's at his best and he also shines during his big number 'Razzle Dazzle'. As a stage veteran he knows exactly how to play into the hands of the audience, giving them just enough to keep them on the edge of their seats, begging for more.

Neil Ditt provides humour as Amos Hart and punches straight to the gut with his 'Mister Cellophane' rendition. He ellicits many an 'aww' and 'bless him' from the audience and laps it all up, despite never gaining the exit music he so desired...

Then there's fan favourite Sam Bailey, former winner of The X Factor and clearly hugely popular with the audience who whoop and cheer her arrival to the stage as Mama Morton before she's so much as uttered a single word. Her vocals are impressive throughout as would be expected and she seems at home on the stage. It's always a worry when celebrities are picked up for stage shows as you think they may be there on their name alone, but this clearly isn't the case for Bailey. She's earned her spot in the show just like everybody else.

Credit: Catherine Ashmore
Credit: Catherine Ashmore

Allowing the 11-piece band to play a huge part in the show is a masterful stroke of genius. It brings a sort of 'meta' feel to the whole production, luring the audience right in and ensuring the crowd believe and hang off every word uttered on the stage. Though the scenery and set is minimilist, the light work is impressive and casts the shadow of iron bars on the ground as the women mark their territories.

Highlights from the night include opening number 'All That Jazz', the brilliant 'Cell Block Tango' and the hilarious scene where Roxie stands trial, dazzling the judge, jury and those in attendance.

Delving into the fascination media had at the time for murder stories (something that's still guaranteed to sell thousands of papers to this day), Chicago is a show unafraid to poke fun at itself and willing to put everything on the line for the pleasure of the audience. There's a reason it's the second-longest running musical in Broadway history. It's utterly incredible.

Chicago runs at the Opera House from Monday 21 March to Saturday 2 April.

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