Final Season of this Hit Musical Opens in Melbourne
State Theatre, Melbourne Arts Centre, December 19
reviewed by Caterina Kuljis
Hit it Maestro! CHICAGO has hit Melbourne with a smashing bang! Hot, sultry, sexy, dynamic and slick, this production captures the raw essence of Chicago USA in the 1920s.
Whether you’ve seen CHICAGO on the silver screen or on the stage, the storyline is brilliant and timeless, set in an era where it was so good to be bad. It is crime central, where celebrity status was craved; greed, lust, power and money were the driving force; and twists and tales unfold seeing human’s and society’s sins and weeknesses all rolled into one storyline.
This latest production of CHICAGO, which has already played acclaimed seasons in Sydney and Brisbane, has a 5-star line up that razzle-dazzled a packed house adorned with celebrities and fans alike on its Melbourne opening night at the Arts Centre. Cast leads are Natalie Bassingthwaite as Roxy Hart, Alinta Chidzey as Velma Kelly, Casey Donovan as Mama Horton, and joining the cast in the role of Bobby Flynn for the final season in Melbourne is Jason Donovan (replacing Tom Burlinson).
Each of the cast members were stellar and standouts in their own way, being able to showcase their incredible vocal and performance abilities but also nail great comedy skits and sultry, raunchy dance sequences throughout. The audience was elated as the first cords played of the ever popular hit songs of the show. The renditions of ‘Cell Block Tango’, ‘When You’re Good to Mama’, ‘All That Jazz”, ‘We Both Reached For the Gun’, ‘Mr Cellophane’ and ‘Roxie’ definitely deliver for the fans.
Both Alinta Chidzey and Natalie Bassingthwaite were brilliant in capturing their sassy characters and are phenomenal together, with their sublime harmonies being a highlight.
Matron “Mama” Morton’s role was made for Casey Donovan and she held the room in the palm of her hand with her powerhouse vocal range. Rodney Dobson (Amos Hart) did a beautifully poignant job with show classic ‘Mr Cellophane’ (You just wanted to reach out and give him a hug!), and Jason Donovan (Billy Flynn) was a trooper. Andrew Cooke (Fred Casey) was highly entertaining, especially in the court scene, and J Furtado is a breath of fresh air as gossip reporter Mary Sunshine.
Keep the credits coming to the incredible ensemble lineup as they are all dynamic and sizzling hot! They employ the true musical theatre dance toolkit in CHICAGO with their streamlined-bodies, toned, lean, long legs and six-packs galore wrapped in simple sheer black stockings and figure-hugging costumes as they command the stage and become part of the setting. Each dance movement is purposeful, hypnotic and luring.
This show oozes classic Bob Fosse-style jazz from slow, snakelike slinkees rolling across the stage in perfect synchronicity to sharp, fast dance jazz sequences. Sensuous arms floating from left to right and lunging legs, high kicks, splits, spread eagles, body rolls, hip rolls, spins, jazz hands … CHICAGO has the lot! The choreography is slick, tight, smart, raunchy, and decedent with the distinct stylised Fosse accents helping to bring the characters to life.
Additional credits to the original creative team’s John Kander & Fred Ebb, Walter Bobbie, Ann Reinking and the amazing team for the way they blended the storyline, music, choreography, formations, lighting and props to work so well together.
The set and costuming were pulled back to be simplistic yet stylish, one gold frame encased the stage and one gold frame encased the band that were front and centre. Colour scheme was a simple palette of blacks, whites, skin tones with touches of gold which brilliantly allowed the vocals, acting and dance numbers to shine.
The lighting was low lit with down lighting and pin spots. Side stage had 3 light bars one red, one blue and one yellow and bentwood chairs lined up facing the bar with the ensemble slouched across them added to the mystery of the ‘speakeasy’ era of the 1920s and illegal venues.
The blinding lighting bar coming down in the second half was a great addition to the mix changing the scene to the courtroom A handful of more props layered and contrasted the set adding humour and creativity to the mix. From the feathers creating a main of hair, to the ladders swinging in and out, to the oversized newspaper and the gold glitter curtain. The creative visual layering, and adding the musicians’ characters into the mix and their tiered platform as a physical entry and exit point was smashing and added further dimension to the mix.
The audience were dancing and singing their way out of the theatre as the band continued to play CHICAGO’s greatest hits.
CHICAGO The Musical has it all: Powerhouse voices; Sexy, seriously flexible bodies; Gorgeous eye candy; Amazing harmonies; Comedy galore; Great storyline; Sing-Along show tunes, and Sultry, raunchy dance numbers … all wrapped neatly into this sensational musical.
CHICAGO is an absolutely smash! Spoil yourself and go see it before it ends this summer.