Chicago — REVIEW

Chicago — REVIEW
Image: Zoë Ventoura and ensemble perform "All That Jazz", CHICAGO Credit: Jeff Busby

On the surface, Chicago seems like it’s all sizzle, pop, and melodrama (and it is all that) but underneath the ice is a steady flow of cynicism and social commentary; a Brechtian level psycho-political critique delivered with sexually charged, self-referential Vaudevillian pizzazz. 

The current Australian tour of Chicago just opened in Sydney, and if audience reaction is anything to go by, it’s a winner. With an all-new cast and a few tweaks since the 2019 revival, this production feels fresh. 

Anthony Warlow and female ensemble, “All I Care About Is Love” in CHICAGO (c) Jeff Busby
“Cell Block Tango”, CHICAGO, Credit: Jeff Busby

Zoë Ventoura takes on the role of lead vixen, Velma Kelly, playing her as brassy yet vulnerable. Ventoura moves with slick fluidity and sings with conviction. She has several great solos and duos, notably her moment with Mama Morton singing “Class”. 

Lucy Maunder is delightful as the faux ingenue, Roxie Hart. Maunder’s beautiful blending of villainy and cuteness makes us love, hate, love Roxie. Maunder has several stand-out moments including the eponymous, “Roxie”.

Traditionally depicted as flashy, garish, shady, Billy Flynn is slightly more elegant, though still unscrupulous and sinister, in the hands of distinguished theatre veteran, Anthony Warlow. Warlow is in fine voice and cuts an imposing figure on stage. 

(from left) Asabi Goodman (“When You’re Good To Mama”); Peter Rowsthorn (“Mr Cellophane); Lucy Maunder (“Roxie”), CHICAGO. Credit: Jeff Busby
Asabi Goodman and Zoë Ventoura, “Class” in CHICAGO (c) Jeff Busby

One of the key roles in Chicago is Matron “Mama” Morton, the jail warden with a heart of steel who is equal parts den mother and impresario. It’s a meaty part that requires big personality and vocal heft and US-born Australian, Asabi Goodman, bats it into the stands. When she sings “When You’re Good To Mama”, she’s basically alone on stage with a spotlight and no other frills or effects, but she serves it up like a roast dinner with all the trimmings. 

Comedy favourite and TV celebrity, Peter Rowsthorn, has the crowd eating out of his hand the minute he walks on stage. As the tragically clueless Amos Hart, husband of Roxie, Rowsthorn delivers comic pathos that is frequently quite moving. His stand out song is the brilliant, “Mr Cellophane”, another stripped back solo number that brings down the house. 

Lucy Maunder and male ensemble in CHICAGO (c) Jeff Busby
Zoë Ventoura and Lucy Maunder in CHICAGO (c) Jeff Busby

The company is an extraordinary group of dancers seemingly made of quicksilver. They all do double time in minor, non-speaking parts, and, together with a jazz band that is completely visible on stage, they give a very strong sense of integration to the whole show. 

Ann Reinking’s New York production choreography, which is modelled on the original choreography of legendary Bob Fosse, is retained here and performed with elastic sensuality. 

This is a stunning production that will please the faithful and thrill newcomers. 

Until July 28
Capitol Theatre, 13 Campbell St, Haymarket

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