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Review: CHICAGO, New Wimbledon Theatre

This touring production brings stockings, seduction and sensational singing

Review: CHICAGO, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: CHICAGO, New Wimbledon Theatre Chicago is a piece of musical theatre that feels as though it has been around forever. Premiering in 1975, directed and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse, it quickly gained an iconic status and an exhausting number of revivals followed. Currently running on Broadway, starring Pamela Anderson, it is also on a highly successful tour that lands at the New Wimbledon Theatre this week.

The story follows a pair of fame-hungry, Jazz Age murderesses living in a world where morality is usurped by the public's desire for the entertainment of murder. When they realise their individual stars are waning, they join forces to exploit the power of their combined celebrity.

At heart, this Kander and Ebb show is a cynical satire, cleverly exposing an obsession with celebrity and media exposure that is even more apparent today. Suitably, this tour features a rotating cast of various celebrity faces, some more successful than others.

Faye Brookes, best known for her role on Coronation Street is an impish Roxie Hart. She displays a real naughty streak, with goofy comic timing and brings a lightness to the character. Brookes also has a lovely clarity to her voice.

Djalenga Scott is a standout as a confident and very sexy Velma Kelly. She has great physicality and a fantastic, ironic tone to her voice, particularly in "All That Jazz". Her sardonic manner is also a great foil to Brookes' giddy Roxie.

At Wimbledon, self-seeking lawyer Billy Flynn is played by Russell Watson. He inevitably gives a strong vocal performance, but takes a while to warm up in the charisma department. "We Both Reached For The Gun" is a good showcase for his extensive vocal range.

Sheila Ferguson shows great ease and stage presence in the role of jail-mother 'Mama' Morton. Her duet with Scott in "Class" is beautifully pitched. Jamie Baughan inevitably scoops up the sympathy as Roxie's discarded husband Amos. His solo "Mr Cellophane" is beautifully done and sadly adorable. B E Wong is an amusing, if slightly shrieking, journalist Mary Sunshine.

Ann Reinking's choreography is inspired by the original Bob Fosse's style. The requisite pelvic thrusts, tilted hats and chairs dragged across the stage are all in evidence. This is a show that relies heavily on the ensemble and the company show tight synchronisation, overt sensuality and movement brimming with fluidity. A highly creative version of "We Both Reached for the Gun" is very successful.

It is a nice touch to have the energetic orchestra on stage, who quickly become integrated into the action. Musical director Andrew Hilton has a ball as an ad hoc Master of Ceremonies. John Lee Beatty's design retains the simplicity of the original set, using a gilded frame around the exposed orchestra and the proscenium arch.

Chicago is a show that dazzles when it is done well and feels incredibly flat if not. This touring version is a slick machine with just enough razzle dazzle to entertain and enthral.

Chicago is at New Wimbledon Theatre until 21 May, then touring

Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

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