Theatre review: Chicago, King's Theatre, Glasgow

This slick, exhilarating production of Chicago is the perfect antidote to 18 months of dark theatre stages, writes Joyce McMillan

Faye Brooks and Djalenga Scott star in Chicago PIC: Jamie Simpson
Faye Brooks and Djalenga Scott star in Chicago PIC: Jamie Simpson

Chicago, King’s Theatre, Glasgow ****

Give ’em the old razzle dazzle, goes one of the most famous songs in Kander and Ebb’s much-loved 1975 musical Chicago; and if you’re looking for an all-singing, all-dancing dazzler of a show to reopen dark theatres after 18 months of lockdown, then it’s hard to imagine a better choice than this brilliantly slick and enjoyable UK touring production of the show, now on tour around Scotland’s main stages.

Based on a 1926 play by crime reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, and set in Chicago during the roaring 1920’s, the musical famously tells the tale of a prison full of wicked ladies accused of murder, and of the corruption in the criminal justice system - and the growing cult of the “celebrity criminal” - that allows most of them to escape the death penalty.

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    In style, Chicago is closely related to Kander and Ebb’s huge 1960’s hit Cabaret, and the 1972 film, choreographed - like Chicago - by Bob Fosse; it uses a surreal cabaret idiom to explore its sensational story, and produces a powerful American variant on Cabaret’s sexy, decadent and witty atmosphere, like a mash-up of Brecht and Mae West.

    After so many months away from the roar of a delighted audience, the show’s twin stars Faye Brookes (as Roxie Hart) and Djalenga Scott (as Velma Kelly) seem exhilarated to be back in front of a hugely enthusiastic crowd, belting out classic numbers like All That Jazz, Nowadays, and their closing Hot Honey Rag. And they receive exuberant support from a superb 25-strong ensemble, featuring Darren Day as celebrity lawyer Billy Flynn, and Joel Montague as Roxie’s neglected husband Amos; with musical director Andrew Hilton and his onstage band providing a wry and scintillating musical commentary on the whole decadent and sparkling business, from opening number to grand finale.

    Chicago is at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, from 20-25 September, and at the Playhouse, Edinburgh, from 27 September until 2 October

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