Venue: Capitol Theatre (Sydney NSW), Aug 20 – Oct 20, 2019
Music: Fred Ebb, John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb, John Kander
Book: Fred Ebb, Bob Fosse, John Kander
Director: Walter Robbie
Cast: Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Amy Berrisford, Tom Burlinson, Alinta Chidzey, Andrew Cook, Todd Dewberry, Rodney Dobson, Samantha Dodemaide, Casey Donovan, Mitchell Fistrovic, J. Furtado, Ben Gillespie, Chaska Halliday, Travis Khan, Hayley Martin, Kristina McNamara, Joe Meldrum, Tom New, Jessica Velluci, Romina Villafranca, Rachael Ward, Zachary Webster, Mitchell Woodcock
Images by Jeff Busby
Roxie and Velma are in the slammer, but it would appear that they are having a great time, having learned that in America, it pays to kill. Chicago deals with the subject of the celebrity criminal, and the conventional notion that in whatever realm of achievement, no matter how sordid, we insist always only on having one victor, if the parties involved are women. The story may be approaching a hundred years old, but the enduring musical retains its feeling of thorough modernity, thanks in large part to Bob Fosse’s unparalleled choreography (interpreted by Ann Reinking in 1997), giving the show an air of scandalous edginess that is as yet unsurpassed.
This Australian revival, with resident director Karen Johnson Mortimer at its helm, is sophisticated and sexy, an exceedingly accomplished rendition of one of Broadway’s longest running musicals. Beautifully arranged by musical director Daniel Edmonds, the songs of Chicago are once again vibrantly rousing, proving the timelessness of this legendary work.
The ensemble is unequivocally sensational. Each performer delectable, skilful, and incredibly tightly rehearsed, for a presentation that leaves us breathless from the very get go. Roxie Hart is played by a luminous Natalie Bassingthwaighte, who brings a surprising and highly effective humour to the role, marvellous in her ability to elevate the well-worn campness of her material to something quite unexpectedly exquisite. Alinta Chidzey is impressive with the technical proficiency she brings to Velma Kelly, a consummate professional who hits every mark with admirable precision.
Tom Burlinson is slightly less charming than he needs to be, as the unscrupulous lawyer Billy Flynn, and although able to hold all the notes, Burlinson’s voice is unfortunately quite underwhelming. Rodney Dobson is on the other hand, charisma personified, winning the hearts of every audience member as Roxie’s husband Amos, especially during his much-loved “Mr. Cellophane” number. The part of Mary Sunshine is perfectly sung by J. Furtado, and Casey Donovan is simply divine as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, replete with superstar quality.
The feuding women come together at the end, after being chewed up and spat out by the patriarchy. Women are told that there is only ever room for one, and so many fight tooth and nail to get to the top, forgetting that a hierarchy will always require the subjugation of entire populations, and that no woman is allowed to stay eternally supreme in accordance with this mode of doing things. Competition may be healthy, but whenever we are made to betray the sisterhood, we must remind ourselves that much as we are seduced by the feeling of attaining personal gain, the real beneficiaries of the system is never us.