THE FIRST night of Chicago had stiff competition.
Thousands of Eastbournians had flocked to the nearby Western Lawns on Monday evening to enjoy the televised Jubilee Concert on a giant screen, fireworks and a beer tent.
So it’s a measure of the popularity of the high-kicking musical that the Congress Theatre was packed.
Set in the roaring Twenties, nightclub singer Roxie Hart (Ali Bastian) is intoxicated by gin, jazz and gents – especially ones who are not her long-suffering husband Amos (Jamie Baughan).
She shoots her lover Fred (Ian Oswald) after he threatens to leave her, but soon finds that being behind bars is no hindrance to being in the spotlight.
She tussles for the front page, and the attention of oleaginous lawyer Billy Flynn (Stefan Booth), with fellow murderess Velma Kelly (Tupele Dorgu) as the ladies kick up their heels and sing their hearts out – with a little help from Mama Morton (Bernie Nolan).
Chicago is a deservedly popular show – slick, sassy, with toe-tapping tunes and excellent choreography – and the dancers were suitably impressive.
Tupele Dorgu gives a knockout performance as the increasingly desperate Velma Kelly, who sees her position as top dog on the cellblock threatened by the scheming Roxie.
Ali Bastian, as Roxie, warmed up in the role throughout the show. She gave a fine performance but occasionally seemed to lack confidence – as did Bernie Nolan, whose Mama Morton would have benefited from more gusto – and her shoulders slumped.
Chicago had enough vim and vigour to deliver an excellent evening’s entertainment.