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Theatre Review: Chicago *****

Joy Watters reviews a production not to be missed.

This year it is director Richard Baron who dons the musical mantle for the opening show of the season, and together with excellent cast, musicians and creatives delivers an unforgettable production. Kandor & Ebb’s classic 1975 musical razzle dazzles and then some as the audience is transported to 1920s Chicago, the town `where murder is a form of entertainment.’

The time is ripe for the show in this Trump era of fake news and phoney celebrity. The musical’s satire of crime and celebrity (where the justice system is an extension of showbiz) chimes only too well with our times.

Chicago takes the form of an evening of barbed Jazz Age vaudeville, from burlesque to ventriloquism, as the characters tell their stories from jail to courtroom.

Half a dozen female killers are in the Cook County jail awaiting trial, having bumped off their men. No regrets—the guys had it coming. The women want publicity for their crimes to win the public over. The two protagonists, icy superior Velma (Niamh Kelly) and fluffy blonde vixen Roxie (Lucie-Mae Sumner) fight it out for column inches.

Sumner is a comic delight, one moment skipping around a la Shirley Temple, the next into Rottweiler mode by way of an extraordinarily good impression of a ventriloquist’s dummy. Kelly has a sinuous sexiness in her movement with just the right chilliness of demeanour.

The 15-strong ensemble is outstanding in whatever they are asked to do. Assistant director/choreographer Chris Stuart-Wilson takes them down the much-loved Bob Fosse style of the original, and the cast do him proud.

The band is exceptional, just 10 of them sounding much bigger as they deliver all that great jazz.

Set and lighting designers Charles Cusick Smith and Wayne Dowdeswell combine the darkness of the jail with touches of gold to create the world of vaudeville the characters inhabit.

Don’t miss it!

Chicago performs at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre in repertory until October 20th.

Tags: theatre

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