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Little Jimmy Osmond

The West End version currently has Jerry Springer making an appearance, but how is the touring version, which has Jimmy Osmond in a starring role? Terry Wills went to check it out at the Hippodrome where it runs until June 13.

“Is it really be 30 years since ‘Chicago’ opened at London’s Cambridge Theatre?”

The self asked question as I enjoyed watching the latest revival of a musical that simply ‘refuses’ to go away. No matter how long it’s been running on Broadway and in the West End, how many established stars and budding hopefuls have taken over the principal roles, it’s appeal seems endless.

And this current touring production, judged by the reaction of an enthusiastic opening night Hippodrome audience, seems to confirm this offering will continue to receive plaudits from patrons and critics alike.

(Penned by the duo of John Kinder and Fred Ebb, choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse, ‘Chicago’ has scooped awards for both theatre and film adaptations. 6 Tonys-2 Olivier-1 Grammy –2 Bafta-and 6 Academy Awards)

As the title confirms the story’s set in the ‘Windy City’ of Chicago-Illinois. The prohibition era. Gangsters and their molls become crime celebrities. The newspapers show banner headlines, full- face photographs, and stories detailing all the gory, ‘glory’ details of any crimes committed.

Velma Kelly a double-murderess is naturally the focus of attention but with the aid of Jimmy Flynn, a smooth talking lawyer who will defend any criminal as long as they can afford his professional fee, she’s hopeful his expertise plus sympathetic exposure as to why she committed the ‘alleged’ murders, will see her acquitted.

To her consternation, not to say disgust, a new threat to her celebrity status emerges. Roxie Hart a nightclub singer who extracts her own justice after catching her lover cheating on her. Her revenge? “It was self defence. I was holding a knife and he just happened to run on to it about ten times”.

Arrested and in awe of Velma’s notoriety when discovering Velma had Jimmy Flynn working on her defence she decides Mr Flynn was also the slick talking lawyer to help her beat the death sentence!

(And if you think this is the figment of a fevered imagination bear in mind the story is based on real life events.)

The success of Chicago, for me, is based on the principal that any story played with a sense of fun, panache, exhilarating dancing and catchy songs, will invariably prove a box office hit.

And this latest touring production possesses these elements in abundance.
The role of Jimmy Flynn is played by the ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’ himself, little Jimmy Osmond whose career with the legendary Osmond Brothers needs no introduction and, as an aside, following it’s run at the Hippodrome this very popular show business personality is leaving the cast.

Despite playing the role of the scheming cynical, “I’ll defend anyone if the money’s available” lawyer, compared with the outstanding performances from Emma Barton as Roxie and Twinnie- Lee Moore as Velma, he’s ‘forced’ into the background so forcibly do they portray their respective roles.

Emma Barton is a simply outstanding Roxie Hart.

A role that seemingly attracts the show’s producers to give many up and coming popular television/ reality show performers the opportunity to showcase their talents. (She looks good, dances well, has a strong singing voice and carries off her role to perfection)

Proof, if any was needed; Emma is the latest in a long line including Jill Halfpenny, Claire Sweeney, Jennifer Ellison, Denise Van Outen, Melanie Griffiths and Ruthie Henshall.

‘Chicago’ has been described by one critic as “Still the sexiest, most sensational musical”.

As always that’s a subjective opinion but without argument the vibrant choreography from a cast of ‘cell bound’ dancers, aided by a wonderful eleven piece orchestra, for me stars in their right, bought an air of excitement into the auditorium.

Especially when bounding on stage to introduce the second half, and receiving a prolonged enthusiastic reception as they carried on playing while the audience were reluctantly leaving at curtain call.

Those familiar with Chicago will be familiar with the stunning opening number by Velma and the company “All that Jazz”.

Add “Roxie and the Boys–“Funny Honey”- “Me and my Baby”- Mister Cellophane” –and the popular “Razzle Dazzle” (Jimmy Flynn) all rounded off when the freed duo of Roxie and Velma celebrating their freedom by teaming up as a Night Club act to perform “Hot Honey Rag”.

Chicago will probably/possibly (?) bring those familiar with the show back to the Hippodrome to judge for themselves how it compares to past productions, while those who know little or nothing about the storyline may be tempted to discover just why it has retained it’s enduring popularity, plus of course the opportunity to see ‘The long haired lover from Liverpool’ sing live on stage?

In this context the role of a scheming, devious, lawyer probably isn’t one associated with Jimmy Osmond, but his very presence bought an enthusiastic response from an audience that had enjoyed the entertainment and noticed that he allowed Emma Barton and Twinnie-Lee Moore to take the final curtain call. Well-done Jimmy and final congratulations to the whole cast of Chicago for providing a great nights entertainment.

Chicago runs until June 13. Ticket details from birminghamhippodrome


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