Friday, August 30, 2019


Alinta Chidzey and ensemble in "Chicago" 

Lyrics by Fred Ebb – Music by John Kander – Book by Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse
Directed by Tania Nardini ­­­– Choreography recreated by Gary Christ
Musical Direction by Daniel Edmonds - Scenic Design by John Lee Beatty
Costume design by William Ivey Long – Lighting Design by Ken Billington
Capitol Theatre Sydney 27th August until 20th October 2019

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

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.

Alinta Chidzey (VelmaKelly) - Natalie Bassingthwaite (Roxie Hart) 

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.

Tom Burlinson (Billy Flynn) and ensemble

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.

                                        Photos by Jeff Busby

         This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.