Understudies on top form

Tupele Dorgu (playing Velma Kelly), Stefan Booth (Billy Flynn), Ali Bastian (Roxie Hart) and Bernie Nolan (Mama Morton) in Chicago, running at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall from August 13-18.
Tupele Dorgu (playing Velma Kelly), Stefan Booth (Billy Flynn), Ali Bastian (Roxie Hart) and Bernie Nolan (Mama Morton) in Chicago, running at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall from August 13-18.

When understudies replace both leading lady and leading man in a musical, you expect to have to make allowances.

Not so in Chicago, back at Sheffield’s Lyceum till Saturday.

Chloe Ames is as pert and lithe a Roxie Hart as anyone could wish. If her singing is a tad underpowered, that’s down to youth and inexperience, and time will mend both.

Ian Oswald’s Billy Flynn can sing and swagger with the best, though first night nerves showed until the interval.

And the rest? The strutting, scantily-clad ensemble are slick and sexy. In contrast, Jamie Baughan gives Roxie’s misguided husband, ‘Mr Cellophane’ Amos, real pathos. Sunshine Mary (Alex Weatherill) is definitely not what she seems, and capitalizes on it. Bernie Nolan’s polished professionalism gives fixer Mama Morton a mumsy spin. Every member of the band has a moment, and the pianist even gets a dance.

Tupele Dorgu was clearly wasted in Coronation Street’s knicker factory. As world-weary Velma she never misses a beat or a trick, uses her endless legs to great advantage and steals the show whenever she’s on stage.

Chicago never palls, and with or without understudies this production is a class act.