Theatre Review: Chicago @ The Regent

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The Regent Theatre’s season continues with another smash hit musical. This time it is the turn of Chicago to hit the stage. Almost fifty years since making its first appearance, Chicago is a staple of musical theatre and remains evergreen with topics still relevant in the 2020s.

Set in 1920s America, the play highlights the vaudeville era which gave women a chance to break the mould. Unfortunately, this brought them into contact with menfolk who played fast and loose with their partners. In many cases, the males paid the price for their philandering as their erstwhile partners were driven to murder.

This saw the birth of a new breed of lawyer who specialised in making their clients into celebrity murderesses while the defendant used all of her womanly wiles to sway the all-male jury to declare a not guilty verdict.

Velma is the celebrity of the moment following her double killing and has hired lawyer Billy Flynn to defend her. Unfortunately, her status is challenged by new kid in the cell block Roxy. Billy sees Roxy as a perfect vehicle to further his career and builds up a tear-jerking defence that is capped when Roxy announces that she is pregnant. Will Velma regain top spot or will fellow wannabe vaudeville star Roxy win out? That is the premise of the play.

The stage sizzles with sass as the show develops with the well-known All That Jazz setting a sexy tempo from the start. The number introduces the audience to Velma played by Djalenga Scott. Scott has a great voice and a sensuous dancing style and has a commanding presence on stage. It is clear that a jury would be putty in her hands.

Scott and Faye Brookes have an excellent on-stage relationship as rivals for Flynn’s affections. Known to many as Kate Connor from Coronation Street, Brookes produced a character light years from her soap persona showing all-round musical theatre ability. This sexy performance would have melted the Weatherfield cobbles and had the curtains twitching.

Russell Watson is cast as Billy Flynn and proves that he is more than just a great voice. He brings all of his West End experience to the role and is perfect as a lawman who shows faux sincerity while having an eye on the bucks to be made.

Star of the Three Degrees, Sheila Ferguson is held in deep affection by theatre goers as was evidenced by the warm reception given on her entrance. She has lost none of her vocal ability and gives a sympathetic performance as Mama Morton who looks after the girls – at a price!!

Jamie Baughan draws empathy and laughter from the audience as Roxy’s hapless husband Amos and gives a poignancy to his rendition of Mr Cellophane that attracted warm applause while B E Wong was sure-footed as reporter Mary Sunshine.

The ensemble was talented with some delightfully intricate choreography all backed by a ten-piece orchestra under the direction of Andrew Hilton that was well-appreciated by a capacity audience.

With a star-studded cast, a great musical score and dance routines that will make your hair stand on end, this five-star production is a feast of entertainment. A classic show has produced a classic night out.

The production has a running time of approximately 2 hours 30 minutes and continues until March 19th. For ticket information contact 08448717615 or atgtickets.com/stoke