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Complete with formation dancing, vaudeville influence and a healthy dose of fishnets, Tony and Olivier Award-winning Broadway and West End hit Chicago delves into the underbelly of the Windy City during the Jazz Age.
Based on real-life events in the Roaring ’20s, the show centres on the character of Roxie Hart, a nightclub singer who shoots her lover. Together with her cell-block rival, double-murderess Velma Kelly, Roxie fights to stay off Death Row with the help of smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn...
Kander & Ebb’s musical builds on many of the themes of their earlier hit, Cabaret, ‘the corrupting hand of celebrity’ and ‘audience complicity in amoralism’ being the two most prominent ones.
“You see murder, corruption, adultery and all sorts of scandalous things,” explains Faye Brookes, who plays Roxie. “But at the end of the day, it’s that razzle dazzle that truly grips the audience. It’s been so worth the wait to get this show on the road. I'm so happy to be a part of it! The role is really iconic too, so I’m absolutely thrilled.
“Roxie is so ambitious. She can be manipulative to get her own way, but it’s because she dreams big and has a big heart. She loves her husband, Amos, but always retreats back to being like a child when she’s around him. She doesn’t stop until she gets her own way. In that sense she’s very stubborn. There are many, many layers to Roxie, and she can say some very mean things. It's a very fine line between the things Roxie says and the journey we want the audience to go on with her. Part of it is having everyone on ‘Team Roxie’, regardless of her flaws. But I’m still discovering her - and I love her! She’s feisty!”
Chicago originally opened on Broadway in 1996, since which time it’s boasted plenty of star names in its cast, including Patrick Swayze and Liza Minnelli. Faye is now catapulted into this hall of fame, joining the cast after starring in Legally Blonde, Shrek The Musical and ITV’s Coronation Street.
“As a child, I definitely looked up to Ruthie Henshall, who took on this role. But now that I’m creating this character myself, I don’t want to compare myself to other people’s versions. It’s all about putting your own heart and soul into the character. These are real characters based on a true story that we need to do justice to. As much as I greatly admire all these other women for paving the way - and now I’m incredibly excited to stand amongst these legends! - I’m finding my own Roxie! This is the first time I’ve been given this kind of creative freedom with a character, and I’m really relishing it.
“Every little detail of this show counts, right down to anyone who plays the music or grabs my hand at some point in the choreography. Just like everyone else brings a little piece of themselves to the stage and the performance, I have to do so as well. But it’s also something that you do together, and with the audience too. The rest of the cast bring out something in me, and this group of people is incredibly special.”
Darren Day, Sinitta, Djalenga Scott, Joel Montague and Davina De Campo are also appearing in the UK touring version.
And alongside such a star cast is a stellar score. With an opening number like All That Jazz, it’s hardly surprising that the show boasts a Grammy Award-winning album.
But what’s Faye’s favourite moment in Chicago?
“Roxie (The Name On Everyone’s Lips) is a huge moment in the show for my character. It’s the time when Roxie finds out that she’s becoming famous. I’m definitely enjoying this bit the most in rehearsals! But it’s also the most challenging because it’s the most popular and the most well-known number from her.
“This is absolutely a dream role. I never thought it would be possible for me to play Roxie Hart. It’s the most perfect timing for me in my career. I’m enjoying every single moment of it. Every day I’m discovering something new about the show and about Roxie. Moment by moment, minute by minute, I’m just falling more and more in love with her. And I hope the audience does too.”
Although her focus right now is firmly on Chicago, Faye is also very much looking forward to the future: “I’m very open with my career. I think after the last two years we’ve all put our guard down and are willing and ready for anything. I definitely know that my bread & butter is musical theatre, though. It’s what I’ve been trained to do, and there’s nothing like it. I’m playing Roxie for at least the next year, but I would love to pursue this role for even longer because I’ve dreamed about this. I would love to further Roxie. I’m dreaming of the West End and Broadway for her! Theatre is definitely up there for me, but it doesn’t mean I’m closing the door on TV at all. My options are wide open, and I’m taking each role as it comes.”
So does Faye have some final words for anyone who hasn’t yet snagged their ticket to this month’s hottest musical? “Don’t think twice! We’re going to blow your socks off! The talent in this cast is like nothing I’ve ever worked with before. From every angle of this show, you’re going to be completely blown away.”
Chicago shows at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Mon 25 to Saturday 30 October; The Alexandra, Birmingham, Mon 24 - Sat 29 January; Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, Mon 14 - Sat 19 March
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