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Chicago (Nottingham) Review

 "a sexy and delightful night"

The sweet sound of jazz fills Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall as the classic musical Chicago arrives at the venue for the week as part of its international tour.

The musical set in the roaring 1920s is based on the true life of Chicago Tribune junior reporter Maurine Watkins who was assigned to cover the trials of women who were accused of murder. Watkins herself turned her tales into a play which then in 1975 Kander and Ebb's musical adaptation hit the stage and has been delighting audiences since.

Djalenga Scott (centre) as Velma Kelly with the Chicago company. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

The piece centers around Roxie Hart, who we meet during the opening number as we witness the murder of her lover and is ultimately sent to Cook County Jail where she awaits trial. In jail, she hires the highly reputed defense lawyer, Billy Flynn, who for a large fee will do anything he can to get her released. In jail is another inmate, Velma Kelly, who loses place in the spotlight on the arrival of determined Roxie. 

The Kander and Ebb score is what continues to make this musical ever popular. Their seductive, sexy jazz-infused score is perfectly rooted in the time and feel of the 1920s prohibition America. Right from the woodwind opening this musical soars and is a delight to listen to as well as look at.

That beloved score is performed by a magnificent orchestra of 10 talented musicians, and what a joyful noise they create. They are sensational. The Entr'acte and Playout alone are worth the ticket fee! Under the musical direction of Andrew Hilton, I doubt you'll hear this show's score ever sound better. 

The other iconic thing that comes with Chicago is the choreography originally by the iconic Bob Fosse. The movement is slick and skillful and performed with real flair by a hugely talented ensemble. Gary Chryst has done an amazing job re-creating the original dance for this current production. The moves are recognisable and undoubtedly Fosse and are performed to perfection.

The ensemble brings the production to life as design-wise it's very lacking in a set. At most there are chairs, the use of a couple ladders, or a glittery curtain other than this it's up to the cast to stage the scenes and it's something they do with a believability that roots you in each location. Ken Billington's lighting enhances the stage, effectively adding to the feel.

The show which does become a vehicle for star casting has a cast on paper with names that excite and they largely deliver. Faye Brookes (Roxie Hart) and Djalenga Scott (Velma Kelly) are outstanding. They bounce off each other in their fractured relationship which goes from resentment to eventually join forces for a cabaret act which ends the piece - 'Hot Honey Rag' is a real show-stopping number that the pair perform excellently. Both Brookes and Scott deliver alluring vocals as well as movement.

'We Both Reached For The Gun'. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

There are some top-notch supporting performances too. Darren Day (Billy Flynn) provides effortless vocals in delivering the two biggest numbers that the character gets in 'All I Care About' and 'Razzle Dazzle'. Day superly balances the character's drive (money) and getting his clients off when they face the judge. Divina De Campo (Mary Sunshine) delights with soaring soprano vocals, it's almost a cameo role and you leave wishing they had a bigger part. Joel Montague (Amos Hart) is tender and touching, a man who has been left behind and becomes invisible to those around him, none more so than his wife Roxie. Montague delivers 'Mister Cellophane' with real heart, it's a beautifully vulnerable moment.

Sinitta's Mama Morton just doesn't quite reach the heights of those around her and it feels a little underplayed. The big number, 'When You're Good To Mama, where she introduces herself feels very static. I'm so used to hearing the number belted out with real raw power here it's much softer and falls flat. A little tweak here or there could really bring out the character more but ultimately she becomes a bit invisible in the presence of the rest of the cast when she's supposed to be this strong Matron in the prison.

After all these years since its stage premiere, the musical continues to deliver a sexy, and delightful night. High-quality dance sequences and musical numbers are delivered by a spellbinding company and a phenomenal orchestra. It's more than 'A Little Bit of Good', it's first-class.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ a hot ticket.

Chicago The Musical continues at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall until Saturday 23rd October. Tickets are available from The production continues to tour thereafter with full tour information from

Darren Day (Billy Flynn) and female members of the Chicago company. Photo by Tristam Kenton.

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