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Review: Chicago at The Regent Theatre, Hanley

Dark, sensual and endlessly entertaining, Chicago The Musical hit all the right notes at the Regent Theatre.

In Hanley until Saturday, this touring production of Chicago is undeniably excellent. A legend of the musical theatre scene, Chicago has it all with big show tunes and a timeless storyline, but this production doesn’t rest on its laurels.

The music is front and centre, with the orchestra positioned on the stage and the action taking place around the musicians. After all, it is jazz that lies at the heart of this show – in the music and the world around the 1920s jazz scene in prohibition-era Chicago.

Chicago follows the story of Roxie Hart, who has shot her lover, but hopes to evade jail with the support of her hapless husband and a smooth lawyer – and become famous in the process.

The stage is a monochrome affair, it’s all black outfits in a highly stylised, yet simple set that puts the casts’ talents in the spotlight. And it is this that makes this touring production so enthralling, the complete cohesion and quality on show.

The dancers are phenomenal, and the show is packed with tightly choreographed routines that are slick and stylish. The cast effortlessly flitting between dancing, acting and singing in a musical theatre masterclass.

This commitment to quality is evident in the excellent casting of the main parts. Billy Flynn and Matron ‘Mama’ Morton are often taken by a well-known name – and in this production it is singer Russell Watson that takes on the part of the morally-lax lawyer Flynn, while The Three Degrees’ lead singer Sheila Ferguson steps up as bribe-happy jail matron Mama.

Needless to say, both have a commanding stage presence and are a joy to listen to and watch. While Watson’s singing is brilliant as you would expect, his stage presence and acting is also spot on. Watching him perform you are aware that you in the room with a serious talent.

The same can be said for Sheila Fergusson, there is no doubting that this is a woman of serious singing pedigree, but she also acts the part and is an engaging stage presence.

While these big names live up to the hype, the mesmerising performances don’t stop there. Coronation Street’s Faye Brooks is fantastic as Roxie Hart, the attention-seeking murderer. Her performance is full of character, and she lifts the script in its more humorous moments, as well as putting in a convincing performance as the morally ambiguous Roxie. And, of course, like the rest of the cast there is a seamless transition between dancing, singing and acting.

As the fame hungry murderer usurped by Roxie Hart, Djalenga Scott delivers a truly memorable performance playing Velma Kelly. Again it’s all about comic timing, flawless footwork and an astonishingly good voice.

These showstoppers are given admirable support by Jamie Baughan as Amos Hart, who brings the emotion and reality to the circus of fame, murder and immorality. Baughan captures the sad situation of the used husband, while light relief comes from B E Wong as reporter Mary Sunshine, by whose pen the accused’s fortunes rise and fall.

Chicago is a timeless classic of musical theatre, and this touring production is an excellent take on it. It is packed with show favourites including All That Jazz, Mr Cellophane, Razzle Dazzle, Cell Block Tango and When You’re Good to Mama. The standard of singing on display is remarkable and, really, is too good to miss – this jazz gem really is all that.

Chicago is at the Regent Theatre, in Hanley, until Saturday, March 19. Book your tickets online.


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