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Review: Chicago at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney

Review by Priscilla Issa

On opening night, at Sydney's Capitol Theatre, Chicago proved why it remains a much-loved classic of the theatre world. With a sprinkle of razzle and a dose of dazzle, it was a vibrant spectacle of music, dance and acting prowess. 

Based on Maurine Dallas Watkins’s play, the story explores the themes of crime, corruption, and media sensationalism. Her fictionalised satirical comedy has engaged audiences with its blend of dark humour and social commentary since 1926. The story revolves around Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, two ambitious and glamorous women, who find themselves incarcerated in the Cook County Jail for murder. Hart, a wannabe vaudeville star, ends up in jail after killing her lover, Fred Casely, in a fit of rage when he threatens to leave her. Kelly, a celebrated nightclub performer, is already behind bars for the double murder of her husband and sister after catching them in bed together. As Hart’s trial approaches, the two jailbirds use every trick in the book to outshine each other and gain public sympathy, transforming their trials into sensational media spectacles. While originally viewing each other as rivals, they eventually realise they might need each other to survive. The show ends with the two performing a dazzling duet, "Nowadays," celebrating their resilience and survival in a world obsessed with fame and spectacle.

Lucy Maunder, as Roxie Hart, was the absolute star of the show. Maunder’s acting and vocal maturity brought a clever blend of sex appeal and “innocence” to the character. From her sumptuous alto notes in “Funny Honey” to her girly and ditsy performance in “A Little Bit of Good”, she drew the audience into Roxie's world of ambition and deception. 

Starring opposite her, Zoë Ventura as Velma Kelly displayed confidence, excelling in the demanding dance numbers. Ventura’s background in dance could be seen in her beautiful lines, quick and accurate turns, and sultry Fosse interpretation. Despite the energy and flair, Ventura's vocal performance sometimes lacked the power needed to embody Velma’s fierce character. Nevertheless, her ability to blend with her co-stars was impressive and evidence of a well-trained musical ear. 

What a voice that Anthony Warlow has! Playing the suave lawyer Billy Flynn, Wallow’s crooner baritone was masterful. His rendition of "All I Care About", backed by a chorus of showgirls, was smooth, cheeky and alluring. Furthermore, his chemistry with Maunder was engaging, adding depth and intensity to their scenes.  

Asabi Goodman, as Matron "Mama" Morton, was another example of exquisite vocal timbre and technique. Her warm performance of "When You're Good to Mama" was warm and technically flawless. She performed with sass and authority, making her character formidable and engaging throughout the show. 

The crowd-pleaser of the night was Peter Rowsthorn’s performance as the loveable and bumbling Amos Hart, whose "Mister Cellophane" was both heartfelt and humorous, adding a sympathetic dimension to the show.

From the moment the orchestra struck the opening chord of “All That Jazz”, it was clear that the music, composed by John Kander with lyrics by Fred Ebb, would transport Sydney audiences to the heart and soul of 1924 Chicago. Positioned on a tiered platform, the big band delivered a stellar performance. From the slides on the trombones to the tantalising toots of the trumpets, the orchestra under Anthony Barnhill’s direction gave audiences a top-notch jazz concert. 

While some may have had an issue with John Beatty’s minimalist design, the set drew focus to the performance and music, effectively highlighting the incredible talent on stage and the core elements of this musical - the traditional jazz harmonies, the playful acting, and the sensual dance numbers. Speaking of choreography, the dance ensemble could not be faulted. With every step, hip gyration, leg extension and pose, the dancers executed Bob Fosse’s genius, capturing the seductive and stylised essence that defines this musical. Clad in black fishnets, sheer vests, tight leather pants, and sexy lingerie, these world-class dancers delivered mesmerising and exciting routines. 

After decades on the stage, Chicago continues to enchant and entertain, and for those seeking an evening of jazz, drama, and laughter, it remains a must-see at the Capitol Theatre.

Image Credit: Jeff Busby


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