Two long-running West End musicals - The Rat Pack and Kander and Ebb’s Chicago - are launching new regional tours this month.

The Rat Pack - which, after more than three years in the West End, closed at the Savoy Theatre on 12 August 2006 to make way for Trevor Nunn’s staging of the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which starts performances from 25 October (See News, 30 Jun 2006) – opens its latest tour on 4 September 2006 at the Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion and then visits Preston, Manchester, Bournemouth, Dartford, Darlington and Sheffield.

After touring the UK extensively since 2000, previously visiting London for one-off dates at the London Palladium and a limited run at the Peacock Theatre, The Rat Pack opened for what was meant to be a limited West End season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in March 2003. After extending at the Haymarket, the show moved in June of that year to the Strand Theatre (now renamed the Novello), where it again extended repeatedly before moving to the Savoy on 3 June 2005. The production is still looking for a new home in the West End.

Performed by look and sound-a-likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr, the tribute show features hits made famous by the trio, including "I've Got You Under My Skin", "That's Amore", "That Old Black Magic" and "My Way", performed to the accompaniment of a live 15-piece Big Band and a full supporting cast.

The third nationwide tour of Chicago kicks off in Birmingham at the Alexandra Theatre on 27 September 2006. It then continues to Edinburgh, Manchester, Sunderland, Southport, Nottingham, York, Grimsby, Southampton, Norwich, Plymouth, Oxford, Glasgow, Stoke-on-Trent, Liverpool, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Belfast, Bristol, Sheffield, Canterbury, Eastbourne and Blackpool, where it concludes on 8 September 2007.

Joining Jennifer Ellison - who stars as Roxie Hart in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sunderland, Nottingham, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Liverpool (See News, 27 Jun 2006) - is Emmerdale’s Dale Meeks, who plays Amos Hart at all venues apart from Nottingham, York and Grimsby. For the full tour, Dawn Spence (Grease, Smokey Joe’s Café, Sunset Boulevard, Follies and Cats in the West End) plays Velma Kelly, George Asprey, (Waking the Dead on TV) is Billy Flynn, and Katy Secombe (Les Miserables) is Mama Morton.

In the West End, where it’s currently running at the Cambridge Theatre after nine years at the Adelphi, Chicago won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production as well as the 1998 Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical. The 1975 musical, about a wannabe jazz star turned murderess, is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The current stage revival is directed by Walter Bobbie and designed by John Lee Beatty, with choreography is by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse.

- by Caroline Ansdell