Feel that Razzle Dazzle Brisbane! Chicago the musical opened to a thrilling standing ovation at QPAC in Brisbane. The Tony Award winning Bob Fosse Broadway classic has returned to Australia with a stellar line-up of big talent that blow the house down and leave you wanting to dance your troubles away with ‘All that Jazz.’
The infamous musical centres around con artists and Chicago’s hottest celebrated criminals Velma Kelly, Roxie Hart, lawyer Billy Flynn and Matron ‘Mama’ Morton who are all caught up in the 1920s glitz and glam era of crime and jailbird drama. The heart of the show revolves around the strong women who are mistreated by the men in their lives, so act out accordingly and the iconic musical numbers in addition to the subtle ‘black comedy’ of the jazz age.
Alinta Chidzey wholeheartedly embodies the most sassy and saucy of them all, Velma Kelly. Her character is convicted of murdering her husband Charlie and sister Veronica when she caught them together on tour. Alinta sets the show up with the wondrous opening number ‘All that jazz’. She perfectly has the audience on the edge of their seat as they all breathe in together and so subtly takes you on a magical journey with her soaring vocal range. As an actress the beauty is in her intricacies. The way she rolls her eyes at the attention Roxie is receiving and her little sly laugh with Mama Morton and Billy Flynn are gorgeous to witness.
Alinta shines in this role and really makes it her own especially in the incredible song ‘When Velma takes the stand’ as she takes her lawyer, Billy through how she is going to wow the jury at her trial. She shows off her glorious talent as a dancer as she struts, is quirky and has the most amazing high kicks to boot. Her bond with Roxie towards the conclusion of the show as they band together was personified in the sparkly beautifully choreographed and performed number, ‘Hot Honey Rag’.
Natalie Bassingthwaighte is so perfect in the role of Roxie Hart. She brings so much heart and ditzy glamour to this attention seeking celebrity criminal. At the beginning of the story she kills her paramour after a spat and is sent to jail. Natalie thrives in this production with her magnificent voice particularly in her starring number ‘Roxie’ when she is thrilled that her name is in the local newspaper ‘The Chicago Tribune’, with the alluring ensemble men as they seductively dance around her.
Natalie’s portrayal of the lively murderess is glorious to observe as she ventures through her various up and downs. It is especially beautiful to see her soft spot for her husband, Amos played by the hilarious Rodney Dobson and how he will do anything for her in the song, ‘Funny Honey’. The pop star is a true triple threat as you see the full breadth of her astounding talent in this classic display of musical theatre.
The notorious Matron Mama Morton is played by Australian superstar, Casey Donavan. Her character gives advice to the inmates at the Cook County Women’s Jail and doesn’t do anything for nothing. She is always making deals and bribes with the women, especially Velma and Roxie. Casey’s version of ‘When You’re Good to Mama’ number is so effortless and sassy, the way she carries herself is so strong like the powerful woman she portraying. Her voice is so sultry and incredible as she discovers a special bond with Velma when they realise Roxie is stealing her spotlight and break out into the gorgeous duet, ‘Class.’
Tom Burlinson embodies the sly and deceitful lawyer, Billy Flynn. He takes on Roxie’s case and turns it into a media circus and is only in it for the money. Tom wonderfully performs some of the most well-known songs in musical theatre, ‘All I Care About is Love’ with the stunning chorus of pink feather fan dancers, ‘We Both Reached for the Gun’ where Tom’s comedic side emerges as he transforms Roxie’s press conference into a ventriloquist act. He speaks and does the actions for her as Roxie mouths the words, manipulating the media with a brand new story to keep her innocent in the eyes of the jury. It makes for a very refreshingly hilarious scene with the ensemble chiming in as the press during the song. Tom’s shining moment is the quintessential Jazz age number, ‘Razzle Dazzle’ and you discover where his character’s loyalties really lie.
As mentioned earlier, Rodney Dobson personifies Roxie’s husband, Amos Hart in an honest depiction of the innocent spouse. Rodney gorgeously finds a sweetness to Amos as he is unfairly treated by his wife and realises that he is being lied to by her. He also makes light of his invisibility to the world in the classic Broadway hit, ‘Mr Cellophane’. The audience eat him up and cheer as he leaves the stage and not even the spotlight operator knows he is still there. The character of Amos teaches people to not forget anyone or ignore them because they aren’t popular or are different from others.
J. Furtado plays the always optimistic and sympathetic journalist, Mary Sunshine. Mary spectacularly finds an emotional connection to Roxie’s case as Billy leads her to believe that she is a victim in the murder situation. J keeps Mary light and fluffy just like her tabloid column and performs a dazzling solo of ‘A little bit of good.’ J’s storyline is beautiful to watch and has a little surprise towards the conclusion of the nitty gritty production.
The ensemble in this version of Chicago are all masters of their craft and make the movement and minor roles their own. One of the standout moments is ‘All that Jazz’. All of their dance moves are so strong and tight as they work as one unit to find that passion and energy to stay together. It is breathtaking to watch as an audience member.
The ‘Cell Block Tango’ is a fabulous and powerful scene for the women in the group. They are allowed to find their inner diva and let loose with each of their distinct characters explaining their murderess tale.
The outstanding men in the ensemble showcase their talents during the ‘Tap dance’, ‘Roxie’ and ‘When Velma takes the stand.’ They all find little intricacies to make the numbers entertaining and draws you in to what story they are telling. Andy Cook is incredible and possesses so much suave as the lover of Roxie at the beginning before she murders him. The Bob Fosse inspired choreography as a whole is so exact and sensational as they all keep time and makes you feel like you are back in the golden age of jazz.
Don’t miss out on seeing this fabulous production of the longest running American musical on Broadway. Go for the songs you know and love and stay for the powerful succinct cast and dazzling dance numbers in addition to the strong female empowerment message that will stay in your mind and soul.
Chicago the musical
QPAC – Brisbane until 7 December 2019
Arts Centre, State Theatre – Melbourne until 21 February 2020
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