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