Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. Music by John Kander and Fred Ebb. Lyrics by Fred Ebb. Based on the play by Maurene Dallas Watkins. Script adaptation by David Thompson. Directed by Jim McMullen. Musical Director. Chris Ronan. Choreographers. Emily Appleton. Hannah Carey. Canberra Philharmonic Society. Erindale Theatre. March 9-25. 2017
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Philo’s Chicago sure is one helluva razzle dazzle show. Slick, slinky and sexy it sizzles with sex, explodes with exuberance and sets the stage alight with sheer panache. So what if “nobody’s got no class”. Jim McMullen’s production has it in spades. From the opening overture, the orchestra under the baton of Musical Director Chris Nonan and set in full view on the stage has it. Jim McMullen and Ian Croker’s Art Deco set design has it. Hamish McConchie’s fabulous lighting for Cell Block Tango has it. Jill McMullen’s costumes have it. And the large cast simply explode with it. This is a classy, brassy production that once again puts Canberra’s musical theatre talent on a pedestal. Director McMullen is fortunate to be able to cast music theatre stalwarts, Kelly Roberts as Velma Kelly and Vanessa de Jager as Roxie Hart . Will Huang’s super smooth Billy Flynn strikes gold with his performance as the high class lawyer. Shell Tully’ s Matron ‘Mama’ Morton has a voice that would force anyone to be good to “Mama” and grease her palm. Jonathan Rush’s Amos Hart is pure pathos at its best. This Mr. Cellophane could wring out the coldest tear.
An effervescent Ensemble bring Twenties Chicago to life with a cavalcade of fabulous routines. Choreographers Emily Appleton and Hannah Carey fill the stage with originality, invention and flair. Magic moments come thick and fast in this rat-a-tat-tat, sure fire production of Kander and Ebb’s depiction of a city that even today records the highest numbers of murders in the United States. Hamish McConchie’s backlit jailbird effect against the red cyclorama for Cell Block Tango provides the perfect atmosphere for the confessions of Cicero’s murderesses. Flynn’s entrance to a Folies Bergere fan dance routine lends a touch of grace and style and surprise. Huang and De Jager, supported by Mary Sunshine (Ben Wilson in falsetto drag) and the Ensemble are brilliant in the ventriloquy routine for We Both Reached For the Gun and Roxie’s Me and My Baby backed by a chorus of nappy clad and bonnet touting babies brought the house down. Aerialists, jugglers, Strong Man and contortionists turn the world of razzle dazzle into a three ring circus.
Canberra Philharmonic Society continues its running streak of top-notch productions with a Chicago that raises the bar even higher. This Chicago is as good as it gets in the hands of a company that could get away with musical murder and all that jazz. This is a five star diamond of a show. Don’t miss it!