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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Chicago, at Her Majesty's Theatre - 2 hours 30 minutes, including a 20-minute interval

A superb production breathes new life into the multi award-winning story of vice that is Bob Fosse’s Chicago.

 

We’re in the roaring Twenties.

 

Married to the dim-witted Amos, chorus girl Roxie Hart is enraged when Fred Casely breaks off an affair and shoots him dead.

 

She tries to pin the murder on her hapless husband, although that backfires.

Photos by Jeff Busby

 

Sent to Cook County Jail, Roxie is incarcerated with other women accused of slaying their lovers, in a block overseen by bribe-taking matron “Mama” Morton.

 

Foremost among the inmates is vaudevillian Velma Kelly who quickly dismisses Hart as irrelevant.

 

But their relationship takes a decidedly toxic turn when Hart engages the services of celebrity lawyer Billy Flynn who is also Kelly’s legal counsel.

 

Money hungry Flynn – who is adept at sexing up get out of jail stories – prioritises Hart’s case over Kelly’s and turns her defence into a media circus.

In his sights is sympathetic tabloid columnist Mary Sunshine (Elijah Ziegeler).

 

Among the casualties of his manipulation is Hart’s estranged husband.

 

Beginning with the staging, everything about Chicago is top shelf.

 

Created by John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics) and Bob Fosse (choreography and direction), not for nought has the musical claimed six Tony Awards and two Olivier Awards.

 

Frankly, it is not hard to see why Chicago is the longest-running musical on Broadway.

For starters, just consider the ingredients: illicit sex, greed, exploitation, corruption, treachery and murder most heinous.

 

Lucy Maunder pouts and flounces and sings up a storm as Roxie Hart.

 

Zoë Ventoura rewrites the rulebook on vituperative and positivity sizzles in so doing.

 

Anthony Warlow shows just why he is regarded as musical theatre royalty. He gives a masterclass of vocalisation and artistry as Billy Flynn.

 

Peter Rowsthorn excels as the downtrodden and inconsequential Amos, his rendition of Mister Cellophane one of the many musical highlights.

Of course, by then the show is already well into Act II.

 

It has knocked it out of the park with the extended opening number, All That Jazz, and other popular fancies.

 

Think Funny Honey, Cell Block Tango, When You’re Good to Mama et al.

 

Asabi Goodman, too, is a dominant force as Mama, while S. Valeri is effusive as Mary Sunshine.

 

With support from a powerful ensemble and highly talented band, which dominates the stage, Chicago is sassy, salacious and sexy.

That is also in no small part due to the evocative and appealing black costuming.

 

I can’t speak highly enough of the movement in this production.

 

The choreographic excellence by Ann Reinking, in the style of Bob Fosse, is off the charts – poised, preened and polished.

 

Chicago brings musical theatre excellence to the fore and how!

 

It is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre until 26th May, 2024.

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