AS if Monday’s temperature wasn’t hot enough already, the femmes fatales from Chicago managed to raise it several degrees with a spell-binding performance of this stunning musical.

An amazing cast did justice to this tale of murder, glamour, and fame, with dance routines created by the legendary choreographer Bob Fosse and catchy tunes which you will be humming long after the show ends.

Chicago tells the story of women inmates locked up at Cook County jail for murdering their lovers – whether they deserved it or not! These female killers would definitely argue that their victims “had it coming”, as explained through many show-stopping numbers.

At the centre of the story is inmate Roxie Hart (played by Coronation Street’s Faye Brookes), chucked into prison for the murder of her lover after her husband refuses to take the blame. She rises to fame with help from her sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn (played by Lee Mead, who himself hit the spotlight thanks to TV talent show Any Dream Will Do).

Jealous of Roxie’s ‘stolen’ spotlight from the publicity of her case, inmate Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott) finds it hard to swallow that her case is no longer favoured by the drama-hungry public and that the attention of her lawyer, Flynn, isn’t strictly on her.

Oxford Mail:

The cast of Chicago at Oxford's former prison - now Malmaison hotel. Pictures by Ed Nix

Many other characters stand out, including Roxie’s blissfully ignorant husband Amos Hart (Jamie Baughan) who constantly turns the other cheek to his wife’s infidelity and feels forgotten about by others

Another scene-stealer is Mama Morton, played by Sinitta, the jail’s Matron and who, for a price, helps the inmates out with things such as lawyers and news coverage. The part was originally due to be played by reality TV ‘star’ Gemma Collins, but it’s unlikely that anyone in the audience was too disappointed when 80s singer Sinitta (remember Toy Boy and So Macho?) took on the role instead. It turns out the only way doesn’t have to be Essex after all.

Oxford Mail:

Chicago’s on-stage orchestra, conducted by Andrew Hilton, fantastically created an immersive atmosphere that transported the audience back to a 1920s Chicago and replicated the sense of being present in a jazz-filled cabaret. The excellent orchestra played the classic songs All That Jazz, Cell Block Tango and Mister Cellophane with the beautiful vocals of the cast.

The innovative decision to show the orchestra on stage really paid off as it made the performance feel a lot more personal.

The origins of the musical Chicago date back to the 1920s when it was written as a play by journalist Maurine Watkins who was inspired by the real-life cases of women on “murderess row” in the real-life Cook County jail.

Oxford Mail:

Watkins’ two most prominent inspirations for her play were murderers Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. Annan heavily inspired the character of Roxie with her crime of shooting her ex-lover and managing to make her husband agree to take the blame after exaggerating an attack.

Gaertner inspired the fictional Velma with her occupation as a cabaret singer and her crime of killing her married lover in a jealous rage.

Watkins seemed to enjoy pushing the boundaries of societal outlooks on female murderers and asking why they committed such heinous crimes that demolished their gender norms. Her articles managed to allow readers to not only sympathise with the women, but to actually idolise them despite their crude acts of violence.

Beauty was also a contributor to the women’s perceptions of innocence, as the more glamorous inmates were viewed as purer to a patriarchal society.

As one of this reviewer’s personal favourite shows, I had high expectations going into Chicago, and these were not only met but exceeded. The show is tremendous with its witty humour, dazzling dance routines, catchy songs, and all that other jazz.

I enjoyed every second of the performance, whether entranced by a dance number or ‘razzle-dazzled’ by the sleek costumes. The musical showed how murderers could be shamelessly glamourised by the public, while also pointing out flaws in the justice system.

I would recommend Chicago to any avid musical lover as it is guaranteed to leave you in awe, singing the songs all the way home. It will probably have you searching for the 2002 Oscar-winning film version, starring Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, to relive the experience straight away.

Chicago continues at the New Theatre Oxford, until Saturday. Tickets