A razzle-dazzle of expert lighting, dramatic choreography and charm.
The Chicago musical sprung onto the doorstep of Sydney with a bang on Tuesday, 20 August, ending in hearty applause with a few rising for the occasion. Such a reception is expected when you produce a show that involves tight choreography, swinging ladders and a scantily clad ensemble – not to mention an intimate but lively band. Blended together with vibrant lighting and a cheeky plot, and you’ve got yourself a winning show.
Set in the 1920s, Chicago tells the story of a housewife and nightclub dancer called Roxie Hart (played by Natalie Bassingthwaighte) who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Roxie is swiftly arrested and sent to the Cook County Jail, run by the boisterous Matron Mama Morton (played by Casey Donovan). Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly (played by Alinta Chidzey), by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer Billy Flynn (played by Tom Burlinson) to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines.
It’s a wild ride of fame, ferocity and delusions of grandeur, matched with a healthy dose of comedy that doesn’t overshadow the plot. It just sinks in nicely. But what always makes the show is a stellar cast, and main names are no different.
It’s not surprising that Natalie Bassingthwaighte shot into the role quite nicely since she’s previously played Roxie Hart during a run in Perth in 2002. Her cheeky acting portrays the erratic mind of a housewife who is quite rightly arrested for cold-blooded murder. A spectacular character arch that holds true.
To match Natalie’s character is Alinta Chidzey, a name that is not as recognisable, but nevertheless a name that knows acting and how to belt a tune. Australians may know her as Shelley Hayes from Wentworth or Caroline Perkins from Neighbours, but it’s her list of stage productions that lights the eyes. Think Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Magnolia in Show Boat, Kathy Selden in Singin’ In the Rain and Sibella Hallward in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder to name a few.
But the women who stole the show was Casey Donovan with her portrayal as the hard-lined and lovable Matron Mama Morton. Casey will always be remembered as the singer who won Australian Idol in 2004, and now she will be revered for her acting. It’s as if the role of Matron Mama Morton was waiting for her all along. This is also surprising considering her limited on-stage acting experience. So let this be a lesson: limited experience means nothing! Not only can Casey act, but she can also belt out a melody with a level of prowess that captivates.
And then there’s Tom Burlinson as Billy Flynn. Tom may be most recognisable as the lead actor in The Man From Snowy River, but his acting career spans a lot longer and is filled with all sorts of eccentricities. And now he can add a smooth-talking lawyer to the list. If you want to gain a sense of his vocal tone, think Frank Sinatra in the modern-day. That’s because Sinatra is where Tom’s singing career began, by performing the role of young Sinatra in the Golden Globe Award-winning miniseries Sinatra.
The Chicago musical will play all the way through to October 2019. It most certainly will be a crime to miss it.