Review: CHICAGO at Crown Theatre

Outstanding cast bring the ol Razzle Dazzle and then some.

By: Nov. 29, 2023
Review: CHICAGO at Crown Theatre

It's always a real treat for a major touring production to kick off in Perth, but this production of CHICAGO knocks it up a couple of notches. A stellar cast combined with perfect staging and the show's iconic songs and choreography make this a night to spend with your favourite murderesses. The cast is a wonderful mix of seasoned musical theatre performers and some who are just making their mark, whilst the band is an impressive group of natural entertainers, making CHICAGO a must see show.

A change in line with the revival of CHICAGO and deviating from the original is having the band box centre stage, in the style of jazz-era club bands as well as a jury box. This thrusts musical director James Simpson into somewhat of a starring role, and he indeed gets a few moments in the spotlight (which he meets with aplomb). The band also act as the centrepiece, at times moving around like jazz musicians and adding to the entertainment value of the show. This is of course not to go past the excellent ensemble, with several large dance numbers making this a truly eye catching show. Most of the ensemble have several speaking scenes and/or several lines in songs, and their talent as genuine triple threats is clear. Ann Reinking won a Tony for the revival's choreography and this team execute it perfectly, the modern take on Broadway legend Bob Fosse's choreography becoming the benchmark for major shows.

Review: CHICAGO at Crown Theatre

Perhaps better known as a screen actress (but trained as a dancer), Zoe Ventoura plays Velma Kelly. Ventoura's performance is simply electric, demanding attention with every move and note. Opposite Ventoura is Lucy Maunder as Roxie Hart. Maunder has a wide variety of roles under her belt and yet seemed ideally suited to Roxie, leaning right into her character's charisma whilst portraying her as a calculating entertainer. Ventoura and Maunder's on stage chemistry is a real highlight of the show, with their back and forth rivalry that turns into a double act captivating the audience. As Roxie and Velma's celebrity lawyer Billy Flynn is stage legend Anthony Warlow, and it is simply a delight to see him doing his thing. Warlow dominates the stage whenever he's on it, perfectly matching his character's larger-than-life persona. Indeed, the showman in Warlow elevates the showman in his character and, whilst defending murderers may be unsavoury, Anthony Warlow makes it impossible to be anything but entertained by Flynn.

Asabi Goodman plays Matron ('Mama') Morton, a character happy to help out the women in her facility just as long as the price is right. Goodman's portrayal perfectly balances the big hearted parts of her character with the ruthless side, and indeed fits the shows varied themes perfectly. As sensational journalist Mary Sunshine is S Valeri, perfectly encapsulating the celebrity loving public that Mary Sunshine represents, and adding a great deal of flair to the show, in particular the finale. Well known as a hapless husband in Kath & Kim, Peter Rowsthorn brings his comedy genius to the part of another hapless husband, Amos Hart. Rowsthorn does not at all look out of place on stage, and in fact one of the best moments in the show is his performance of 'Mr Cellophane,' with Rowsthorn's physical comedy (and vocal) abilities coming to the fore. Somehow, despite being the tallest person on stage (and indeed the only character on stage for 'Mr Cellophane'), Rowsthorn embodies Hart's withdrawn personality perfectly, his performance being a master-class in physical acting. 

Review: CHICAGO at Crown Theatre

Whilst the staging is somewhat minimalist, the characters and performers on show in CHICAGO are simply excellent, and the songs and dance numbers high energy and thoroughly engrossing. The show is about making everything about pleasing and entertaining the public, and this show does it perfectly. The chance to see performers at the top of their game is not to be missed!

CHICAGO is at Crown Theatre until December 17 before embarking on a major national tour. Tickets and more information from CHICAGO The Musical Australia

Pictures thanks to Jeff Busby.