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Be dazzled by razzle

Hit musical Chicago has started a two-week run at Sunderland Empire.

Hit musical Chicago has started a two-week run at Sunderland Empire. Mark Johnson finds out if fellow Scouser Jennifer Ellison is indeed All That Jazz.

Chicago is a sassy and stylish musical with plenty of razzle dazzle.

The story, originally written in 1926 by journalist Maurine Watkins, focuses on would-be starlet Roxie Hart (Jennifer Ellison), who is sent to prison after killing her lover.

The future looks bleak for her, until she employs the services of corrupt but `honest' lawyer Billy Flynn (George Asprey), whose reputation for winning cases for his female clients is legendary.

Within days he turns Roxie into a media sensation, with her photo on the cover of every newspaper and a defence case almost certain to win her freedom (Roxie Rocks Chicago).

But fellow murderess Velma Kelly (Dawn Spence, from Middlesbrough), who was also a client of Flynn's and was elevated to similar stardom, is not pleased when Roxie begins stealing headlines from her.

Soon her own case is hardly attracting any attention and she goes to any lengths to grab the spotlight once again.

Each song is brilliantly choreographed and the whole cast is fantastic, but the play belongs to the female leads with Ellison turning in a fabulous performance and Spence equalling her in the song and dance department.

Ketie Secombe is also impressive as prison warder Mama Morton, displaying a powerful set of vocal chords.

Yet there is more to this than mere glitz and glamour. The show makes you question the whole notion of stardom, even as it exhilarates you with its energy and brilliant acting.

The crowd was good. Even Ellison herself said the Sunderland crowd was "brilliant". A great night all round - a real razzle dazzler of a show.

NChicago is on at Sunderland Empire until Saturday November 18.

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