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Theatre Review: Chicago

20 October 21 words: Victoria Villasenor

Crime is on the rise and skirts are getting shorter.

There is nothing like live theatre, and being able to get back to the Royal Concert Hall felt a little like coming home again.

Chicago has been out for twenty-five years. It has won all kinds of awards through the years. That makes bringing it back to the stage even more of a challenge. How do you create something wonderfully recognizable but still new?

Chicago production photo

It’s the prohibition era, the 1920s. Jazz and alcohol became the biggest taboos, and everyone wanted a piece. Crime is on the rise and skirts are getting shorter. Cook County Jail was the home of ‘murderess row’, where women who’d been accused of murder were sent to await trial.

What did they do differently? The staging is simple, and not only that, the orchestra is right in front of you. Chairs are moved in front of the tiered orchestra to designate the prison. And that’s it—and yet it works fantastically. The orchestra seem to be having so much fun, and part of the enjoyment of the show is watching them too.

Faye Brookes (formerly of Coronation Street) plays Roxie Hart and Djalenga Scott plays Velma Kelly, our two protagonists. Shorter and with long hair, Brookes is a perfect counterpoint to Scott’s tall, dancer-like frame. And wow. Both of them sing like they were born to it. Their stage presence brings you right into the moment, and both humour and sadness are sent through the audience like waves. Playing the role of Mama, the warden, is 80s pop icon Sinitta Malone, and her voice is possibly even richer now than it was decades ago.

Darren Day, who plays Billy Flynn, does an admirable job of embodying the flashy lawyer. Perhaps one of my favorite songs in Chicago is Cellophane, and Joel Montague, who plays the cuckolded Amos Hart, does a beautiful job performing this heart breaking song. And then there’s the divine Divina De Campo, who plays the soppy journalist. De Campo’s voice is stunning, and her comedic role keeps the audience laughing.

The dancers were incredible. The choreography was perfect in every way, and you couldn’t take your eyes off the perfect timing of those hip thrusts.

This is a fantastic, feel-good show perfect for a return to the theatre, if you haven’t done so already.

There are three things to note: one is that there’s so much great stuff going on, you might want to choose seats a little further from the stage so you can take it all in. The second is pandemic related: I’d say that about ninety percent of the audience weren’t wearing masks, and as two people who were, we were very aware of that. If you’re having re-opening anxiety, you should be aware that this is very much like going back to the old normal. And the third thing is that you should definitely pick up the program. It has some great information about the history of Chicago and the play itself that is well worth reading.

Chicago plays at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall from Monday 18 to Saturday 23 October 2021.

trch.co.uk

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