Left – Jason Donovan, Natalie Bassingthwaighte and Company. Cover – Natalie Bassingthwaighte
One of the most iconic musicals of the 20th century, Chicago is an industry favourite and crowd-pleasing production full of razzle dazzle, sharp choreography and glittering costumes. First staged in 1975, Chicago has had an incredible run of success across the world. With book and lyrics by Kander and Ebb and the incomparable Bob Fosse, the style of Chicago has set the benchmark for the musical theatre genre for decades.
The most recent Australian production lives up to the high standard set by previous incarnations, the razor-sharp choreography and execution (pardon the pun) is some of the slickest I’ve witnessed on the Australian stage. The entire ensemble is completely in sync which makes Chicago so glorious to watch.
But it is the leading ladies of Chicago that own every inch of the stage at the State Theatre. Not since national treasure Caroline O’Connor has their been a star the likes of Alinta Chidzey. Already making a name for herself performing alongside Hugh Jackman in Broadway to Oz and with a swag of awards under her belt, Chidzey plays murderess Velma Kelly with sincerity and grace, evoking sympathy from the audience despite the fact Kelly is a cold-blooded killer. Chidzey’s vocals were outstanding, especially considering the State Theatre is not purpose built for musicals, her powerful projection was as crisp and clear as the choreography.
Joined by Natalie Bassingthwaighte of Rouge Traders and Neighbours fame, the role of Roxie Hart is a perfect fit for the blonde bombshell who’s comedic timing and expressive features bring humour to the fame hungry wannabe celebrity. Casey Donovan shines as Matron “Mama” Morton, and is without a doubt one of the best singers in the country. Donovan’s silk like vocals are a force to be reckoned with and I would be happy to have her sing me the phone book. Harmonising flawlessly with Chidzey in “Class,” Donovan has a more featured role than expected and brings her own unique jazzy style to the production.
The only weak point is the casting of Jason Donovan as silver tongued lawyer Billy Flynn – the veteran performer does his best in the role, but his vocal strength simply cannot compare to the powerhouses of the females. He gets lost amongst the glitz and glamour of the production and as such, much of what he says and sings cannot be heard.
The onstage band add to the “speakeasy-esque” aesthetic of the production and the characters consistently break the fourth wall. With some of the best tunes in showbiz and the Rockette precise dancing, the Australian production offers audiences a quality of performers not seen for some time. Chicago is an exceptional piece of theatre, with a stripped back set and no need for bells and whistles, the performers bring the razzle dazzle all on their own. Chicago is simply all class.
John Frost and Suzanne Jones present
Chicago the Musical
book Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse | music John Kander | lyrics Fred Ebb | based on the 1926 play by Maurine Dallas Watkins
Director Walter Bobbie
Venue: State Theatre | Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: until 23 February 2019
Tickets: from $59.90