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Killer Chicago Musical Comes to Bristol

Chicago the Musical Review

Chicago Musical Review UK Tour

The Bristol Hippodrome

Monday 4 – Saturday 9 July 2016

On Monday the Bristol Hippodrome emailed to ask if I’d like review tickets to Chicago that evening as someone else had cancelled. (For some reason, I hadn’t received the original email detailing the press nights and by the time I confirmed that I would like to see Chicago there were no tickets left.) Being offered the tickets to this sell-out show at the last moment, made me appreciate it even more than usual!


Before I get down to the serious business of writing my review, I thought you might like to see the little video review I put together that evening. It’s put together via snap chat so apologies for the weird vertical video layout!

The line up boasts some big TV personalities like Coronation Street and Emmerdale’s Hayley Tamaddon as ‘Roxie Hart’, X Factor Winner Sam Bailey as ‘Mama Morton’ and John Partridge, who we know best as Christian from Eastenders, playing ‘Billy Flynn’.


In early twentieth century Chicago, prostitution, gambling, and extortion were the order of the day and to make matters worse, the well-meaning faith-led prohibition law handed even more wealth and power to mobsters and bootleggers. Combine the ready availability of some pretty lethal illegal alcohol – (moonshine aka coffin varnish, panther piss or gut-rot) with easy access to firearms and I begin to get a handle on why more than a dozen women ended up on murderess row in 1924! A junior reporter, Maureen Watkins, identified the flawed justice system and published articles featuring the injustice of a sexist system which allowed attractive, devious inmates to sway the all-male jury towards a not guilty verdict. In 1926 she adapted the stories of some of the women into the play and so “Chicago” was written.


Based on real life events back in the roaring 1920s, nightclub singer Roxie Hart shoots her lover and along with cell block rival, double-murderess Velma Kelly, they fight to keep from death row with the help of smooth talking lawyer, Billy Flynn.

The award-winning musical  is opened by a very scantily clad young woman telling us what to expect.

“Murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery… all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts.”

It soon transpires that skimpy outfits are the order of the day. The general lack of clothing is quite amusing as stocking-clad, high-heeled performers play anyone from sexy murderesses to news reporters.


Bearing in mind that I haven’t seen Chicago before, I’m pleased to discover that I’m familiar with most of the music: pretty much everyone on the planet would know “All that Jazz” wouldn’t they?

The band is in full view on stage, seated on a tiered platform which also constitutes the set. Don’t underestimate these musicians and expect them to just, uh, play music. Their antics are hilarious but I’m not prepared to spoil it for you. If you absolutely need to know more, you’ll just have to go and see the show or read someone else’s review which gives more away than mine!

The dark painted bricks at the rear of the platform look like a high prison wall but this raised area is also used as the court room and as a stage door leading to other imaginary locations like the bedroom: the starting point of so much drama!

The amount of room taken up by the set leaves only a small stage area at the front, but this doesn’t detract from the choreography one jot. The movement and dancing is a joy to watch: at various times all the dancers writhe together as one body, get jiggy with a chair,  partner up in some of the oddest positions I’ve ever seen or provide a backdrop to the main action in front. Billy Flynn and Roxie’s funny ‘ventriloquist’ act is very clever.

Chicago the Musical Review


Almost everything about Chicago the Musical is black and white – or sepia when bathed in orange light. There’s no colour to the costumes and even the stars and stripes flag is monochrome.

Lighting is interesting with lots of spotlighting from above, giving a smoky old-fashioned nightclub feel.

Occasionally there’s coloured lighting but this generally seems to be reserved for fantasy sequences.

There’s an incredibly effective sequence with footlights on the stage shining upwards which, when coupled with sparkly pom poms, gives some fantastic effects.


If you need to ask then it’s probably not suitable.


I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many women, wearing so few clothes for such a long period of time!

The choreography is amazing.

Based on a true story, the plot is interesting and keeps my attention.

I love, love, love the band joining in, the funny start to act two and the very end of the show.

Thanks to the person who cancelled your ticket reservation. Your loss was certainly my gain!


Created by the musical theatre talents of John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics) and legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, CHICAGO’s score includes All That Jazz and Razzle Dazzle.

CHICAGO, which is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.  Scenic design is by John Lee Beatty, costume design by William Ivey Long, lighting by Ken Billington and sound by Rick Clarke.  Musical supervision is by Rob Fisher. CHICAGO is choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse and directed by Walter Bobbie.


Starring Hayley Tamaddon, John Partridge & Sam Bailey

Monday 4th – Saturday 9th July

Evenings at 7.30 pm

Matinees on Wed & Sat at 2.30 pm

Tickets from £15.00

Concessions available

Click here for information on booking this show. (This is an affiliate link which means that I’d receive a small percentage of the basic price if you choose to buy eligible tickets, without you having to pay any extra. Cool right!)

Click here for a complete diary listing of shows at the Bristol Hippodrome during 2016

Enjoyed our Chicago The Musical review? Then why not check out other show reviews on Practically Perfect Mums?

Taming of the Shrew Ballet

Let It Be

Mamma Mia!


Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty


Avenue Q

The Last Tango

The Bodyguard

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 

Mary Poppins

Little Table of Delights

I Puritani

Romeo and Juliet


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