BWW REVIEW: Broadway's Longest Running Musical Revival, CHICAGO Returns To Sydney With An Interesting Twist On The Villianous Duo Of Dames.

BWW REVIEW: Broadway's Longest Running Musical Revival, CHICAGO Returns To Sydney With An Interesting Twist On The Villianous Duo Of Dames.

Tuesday 27th August 2019, 7:00pm, Captiol Theatre
Natalie Bassingthwaighte (Roxie Hart) and Alinta Chidzey (Velma Kelly) lead the Sydney return of Walter Bobbie's multi award winning revival of John Kander (Music), Fred Ebb (Lyrics & Book), and Bob Fosse's (Book) CHICAGO. With a sleek and simple aesthetic, the all singing and all dancing tale of murder, media manipulation, greed and corruption retains its place as a piece of hedonistic escapism.
BWW REVIEW: Broadway's Longest Running Musical Revival, CHICAGO Returns To Sydney With An Interesting Twist On The Villianous Duo Of Dames.
Alinta Chidzey as Velma Kelly and Ensemble (Photo: Jeff Busby)
Based on Chicago Tribune reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins' play CHICAGO, about the real cases she was reporting on in 1924, the satirical musical tells the story of two women accused and ultimately acquitted of murder. Set at a time when the Cook County jail was filling with female murderers that were acquitted if they were able to use their feminine wiles to win over the all male juries and manipulate the pro-defendant media outlets, an odd phonomenon of celebrity criminal emerged. Based on cabaret singer Belva Gaertner, who inspired the role of Velma, and bookkeeper Beulah May Annan who inspired the role of Roxie, the work draws on the emerging Jazz age where vaudeville was evolving into cabaret and supper clubs of live bands, risqué entertainment, stand up comics, and story telling through single pieces of song and dance.
BWW REVIEW: Broadway's Longest Running Musical Revival, CHICAGO Returns To Sydney With An Interesting Twist On The Villianous Duo Of Dames.
Casey Donovan as "Mama" Morton (Photo: Jeff Busby)
Drawing on the gritty, dark tone of the story, John Lee Beatty's set has a Brechtian simplicity of a tiered gold boarderded black bandstand dominating the stage with a few added surprises thrown in for unusual entrances and vertical variety. The grungy underworld of the 1920's increasing comfort with expressing sexuality on stage is conveyed through William Ivey Long's costuming of a uniformly black array of undergarments, fishnet stockings, skin tight pants and exposed chests with the only deviations being for the characters not invested in the entertainment world such as warden Matron "Mama" Morton (Casey Donovan), lawyer Billy Flynn (Tom Burlinson), wholesome reporter Mary Sunshine (J. Furtado) and Roxie's long suffering sap of a husband Amos Hart (Rodney Dobson).
BWW REVIEW: Broadway's Longest Running Musical Revival, CHICAGO Returns To Sydney With An Interesting Twist On The Villianous Duo Of Dames.
Tom Burlinson as Billy Flynn and Ensemble (Photo: Jeff Busby)
For this season, the casting has taken an unusual turn of presenting Roxie as older than Velma and "Mama" Morton, thereby shifting the story. While Velma and Mama Morton remain wise to the tricks of manipulation and corruption, Roxie is usually presented as a younger victim of the changing society, eventually becoming wise to the underhanded tactics.
BWW REVIEW: Broadway's Longest Running Musical Revival, CHICAGO Returns To Sydney With An Interesting Twist On The Villianous Duo Of Dames.
Natalie Bassingthwaighte as Roxie Hart (Photo: Jeff Busby)
Natalie Bassingthwaighte's presentation has the killer blonde seem much more contrived and calculating from the first introduction, implying a much more seasoned understanding of using her feminine ways and actively employing an impression of innocence with a cutesy voice and exaggerated ditzy dramatisation to get what she wants from both men and women drawn into her deception. This leads to Roxie, who once garnered a degree of sympathy, being throughly unlikable throughout and actually fostering a greater feeling of sympathy towards Velma.
BWW REVIEW: Broadway's Longest Running Musical Revival, CHICAGO Returns To Sydney With An Interesting Twist On The Villianous Duo Of Dames.
Alinta Chidzey as Velma Kelly and Ensemble (Photo: Jeff Busby)
Alinta Chidzey gives Velma the requisite sizzle but also an air of refinement in her more controlled yet naturalistic expression, implying that Velma is just being who she is, not putting on an act to secure her place in the world apart from when she is conciously performing or rehearsing to perform, either on a stage or in a courtroom. Chidzey conveys that Velma can separate the stage persona from the real world making her more human and likeable. The expression of a woman who has risen on merit as a performer while also simply having the gravitas to garner the respect, aided by easier access to cash built up from her pre-clink career, makes it easier to sympathise when her neat arrangements with "Mama" Morton and Billy Flynn are destroyed by the expert manipulator Roxie.
BWW REVIEW: Broadway's Longest Running Musical Revival, CHICAGO Returns To Sydney With An Interesting Twist On The Villianous Duo Of Dames.
Casey Donovan as "Mama" Morton and Alinta Chidzey as Velma Kelly (photo: Jeff Busby)

Casey Donovan is absolutely brilliant as Matron "Mama" Morton. The role has a restrained physicality to distinguish her level of power and separation from the performance aspirations of Velma, Roxie and the ensemble but Donovan ensures that the subtle movement is both effective and expressed with an impression of intuition so nothing feels forced. Donovan is a master at connecting with the text of the song and making the expression feel innate and this is no exception. Her delicious solid vocals, with a fabulous growlly undertone, give Morton the requisite power and stature in the story whilst blending in a wicked series of facial expressions that ensure the warden is instantly endearing.

BWW REVIEW: Broadway's Longest Running Musical Revival, CHICAGO Returns To Sydney With An Interesting Twist On The Villianous Duo Of Dames.
Rodney Dobson as Amos Hart (Photo: Jeff Busby)

Rodney Dobson presents Roxie's mild mannered mechanic husband Amos with a beautiful patheticness which makes his rendition of Mr Cellophane as a sad clown even more heart breaking. J. Furtado presents a wonderful presence as the towering journalist Mary Sunshine, delivering an amazingly clear and pure rendition of A Little Bit Of Good. The weak link of the core characters however is Tom Burlinson's presentation of lawyer Billy Flynn. Flynn is supposed to be smooth and suave but Burlinson has opted for a more comic goofball expression of a second rate side show magician, not a smoke and mirrors man who can manipulate a jury into believing these women should not hang. Added to this is the issue of his vocals not being strong, weakening the impact of numbers like All I Care About Is Love and Ruzzle Dazzle. His softer tone does however work as the 'ventriliquist' in We Both Reached For The Gun where he presents Roxie's fabricated story.

BWW REVIEW: Broadway's Longest Running Musical Revival, CHICAGO Returns To Sydney With An Interesting Twist On The Villianous Duo Of Dames.
Alinta Chidzey as Velma Kelly and Ensemble (Photo: Jeff Busby)

Along with the iconic music, presented by a 13 piece band under the baton of musical director Daniel Edmonds, CHICAGO is famous for its choreography, originally designed by Bob Fosse. The entire ensemble present Ann Reinking's choreography, designed in the style of Bob Fosse, with a wonderful energy and precision even if the degree of the provocative shock factor may have simmered down from the original 1975 styling as modern audiences are more used to overt sexuality and sensuality on stage.

CHICAGO is a classic piece of musical theatre history and this presentation is generally worth seeing provided you leave your expectations of characters at the door.

https://chicagothemusical.com.au/



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From This Author Jade Kops