Sydney audiences currently have the opportunity to see two classic musicals, each one celebrated for its ground-breaking choreography which influenced the use of dance in generations of Broadway musicals.
Productions of West Side Story and Chicago opened in Sydney within a week of each other and in each production, the distinctive choreography of Jerome Robbins for West Side Story and Bob Fosse for Chicago is brilliantly danced by the Australian casts.
This production of Chicago is the Brechtian, stripped-back, Ann Reinking interpretation, for which the band occupies centre stage. The ensemble, dressed in sexy black form-fitting costumes are seated onstage either side of the bandstand. They play all the supporting characters, without bothering with costume changes.
The principal performers are introduced individually, vaudeville style, to perform set-pieces which end with play-out music. All except for Amos whose play-out music is overlooked.
But don’t let that description suggest that there is anything dull about this production. It’s as shiny as a new pin. Meticulously rehearsed within an inch of its life, every finger snap, every hip placement, every head turn is exactly where it should be. Fosse’s brilliant use of the human body for his ridiculously inventive choreography is here exposed to be admired and marvelled over.
But it’s not all about the choreography. There’s also the relationship between the two murderesses, Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly, who, as unscrupulous as each is, must be able to seduce the audience into loving them. The success of any production of Chicago is dependent on finding two star singer/ dancer/ actors with the requisite individual skills to handle the complex stagings as well as bring a frisson of competitiveness to the roles.
Over the years Australia has seen some remarkable pairings, commencing with Nancye Hayes and Geraldine Turner who first introduced us to these characters. Who could forget Caroline O’Connor and Sharon Millerchip in these roles? Now you can add Alinta Chidzey and Natalie Bassingthwaite to that list.
Both are brilliant dancers who bring unexpected nuances to their songs and fresh interpretations which lift them into the short list of memorable interpreters of these roles. Do you need to see them? Oh Yes … You do… You do… You do!
But wait there’s more. There’s Casey Donovan who impresses with her huge voice and presence as the prison matron, Mama Morton, exuding confidence and unexpected kindliness. There’s Tom Burlinson offering a somewhat darker interpretation and less razzle dazzle in the role of the unscrupulous lawyer, Billy Flynn.
There’s Rodney Dobson, as Roxie’s cuckolded husband, Amos, who’ll break your heart with his exquisite rendition of Mister Cellophane and a smoking hot ensemble of exceptional dancers who play everyone else, look drop dead gorgeous, and dance the bejesus out of Fosse’s choreography.
To top it all off, there’s a stunning band which will have your toes tapping from the sassy opening notes of John Kander’s raunchy score to the last note of the play-out music, conducted with flair and finesse by the handsome Daniel Edmonds.
Do you need to see it? Oh Yes… You do… You do… You do!
Capitol Theatre, 13 Campbell Street, Haymarket (Sydney)
Performance: Tuesday 27 August 2019 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 20 October 2019
Following its Sydney season, Chicago will play Brisbane from 2 November and Melbourne from 14 December 2019. For more information, visit: www.chicagothemusical.com.au for details.
Image: Alinta Chidzey as Velma Kelly and Company in Chicago the Musical – photo by Jeff Busby
Review: Bill Stephens OAM