Performing to an enthusiastic full house at the State Theatre, Chicago The Musical opened its Melbourne season with a bang. Sassy, humorous and exuding a brilliant sensuality, this set-in-the-1920’s vaudeville musical is entertainment in its finest form.
Led by three stand-out female performers Alinta Chidzey (Velma Kelly), Natalie Bassingthwaighte (Roxie Hart) and Casey Donovan (Matron ‘Mama’ Morton) the entire cast executes a highly polished, slick and cleverly produced show. While the well-known opening number All That Jazz sets the scene for a night to remember, the sheer performance strength of the female cast and ensemble is immediately solidified in the almost-frightening raw sexuality of Cell Block Tango.
The on-stage inclusion of the swing orchestra brings another level to the production. Clever momentary interaction between performers and musicians knits the entire performance together, allowing the audience to feel the tightly woven intensity of the music, staging and choreography.
Chicago the (non-musical) play was written in 1926 as a social commentary of the duplicity of showbusiness and the media turning criminals into celebrities. Bob Fosse’s musical production followed in 1975, and 45 years later, the show continues to engage. Chicago The Musical may be set in the 1920’s but the laughter, whoops and hollers of the modern-day, social-media-driven audience shows that the themes are equally as timeless as they are entertaining.
Featuring Bob Fosse’s original choreography in the wonderful duet Hot Honey Rag, dance is a definite highlight of the production. The story-telling ability of the ensemble reveals a highly polished team who do much more than just support the main cast. On stage for the entire show, each performer brings a wealth of individuality, creativity and professionalism to their character. Every detail is covered, from the big-note numbers to cleverly-timed small breaths and sighs conveying emotion to the enthralled audience.
Met with an immediate standing ovation, the roof is raised for these versatile and talented performers. Throughout the show, the Melbourne audience (and a large contingent of the Neighbours cast) warmly welcomes Jason Donovan to the stage in his role as cunningly charismatic Billy Flynn. Chidzey as Velma Kelly is an absolute show-stealer, while Bassingthwaighte reveals an irreverent, yet totally loveable Roxie Hart. Casey Donovan’s gutturally brilliant performance of ‘Mama’ leaves the audience wishing for more, just as the unique voice of the fascinating J Furtado (Mary Sunshine) adds a completely unexpected Chicago-esque element of duplicity combined with humour.
Produced by John Frost and Suzanne Jones, this uniquely Australian version of Chicago The Musical is a must-see! Tickets are available at State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne until February 23 2020.