Chicago Review

Reviewed by Georgia Cassimatis

Once the sea of glitterati cruised along the red carpet doused in gold tinsel to celebrate opening night for the world’s most successful broadway musical, Chicago, the theatre was full, feisty and ready to be seduced. As the lights dimmed, and the Chicago gold banner shone, the MC announced: ‘Ladies and gentlemen! You are about to see a story of greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery.’ …and it was on. The powerful and sassy Velma Kelly (Zoe Ventura) opened with the hit number everyone in the audience knew; All That Jazz, while the dancers with their slick, superb physiques, gyrated perfectly. 

Based on the true story of female murderesses who killed ‘their’ men for adulterous, rageful reasons, in the corrupt, seedy, jazz age of 1920s Chicago, the themes explored throughout of instant fame, domestic violence, legal corruption and mass media manipulation all seem to be prevalent to today’s world.

The stories of the ‘man murderers’ at that time were so far-fetched and fascinating, that Chicago Tribune reporter Maurine Watkins, not only reported on it, but wrote a hit play which then morphed into the slick broadway musical it is today. She also found it astounding that lawyers often manipulated the legal system often securing the release of the mainly pretty ones.

Centred around housewife and has-been chorus girl Roxie Hart (Lucy Maunder), she is charged for murdering her lover Fred when he threatens to leave her. She tries to get her ‘combo plate short of a taco’ husband Amos (Peter Rowsthorn) to take the blame. His performance of Mister Cellophane, aka the invisible human no one seems to notice, is an audience favourite: he does simple, humble and lovable, perfectly.

However, Roxie Hart ends up in jail while awaiting her trial, and is surrounded by other murderesses on death row including jailbird sister and fellow man murderer Velma Kelly and prison warden audience favourite Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, who almost steals the show with her powerful showstopping hit song ‘When You’re Good To Mama’. ‘Cell Block Tango’, another hit song, will always be a standout number, and my personal show favourite, as six murderesses each recount their crimes with the refrain ‘he had it coming’.

Roxie, desperate not to die on death row brings in the smooth, slick, fast talking lawyer Billy Flynn (Anthony Warlow), to get her off her charges, while also capitalising on her chance of becoming insta-famous, as a wrongly charged vaudevillian vixen. But when Roxie’s attempt at stardom is swiftly aborted, she accepts fellow inmate Velma’s offer to star as a twosome Vaudevillian Vixens sister act, and the rest is history.

Throughout are the one-liners that I didn’t leave the show without, mostly from Roxie, such as: “Look I'm gonna tell you the truth. The thing is see, I'm older than I ever intended to be, and another: ‘…..and then I started foolin; around... and then I started screwin; around, which is foolin' around without dinner.’

More poignant is the line: ‘I love the audience. And the audience loves me for loving them….that’s because none of us got enough love in our childhood…and that’s showbiz, kid.’

Says Australia’s leading theatre producer, John Frost for Crossroads Live, who has assembled this stellar cast and crew: “CHICAGO has everything that people love about a Broadway musical – a story of fame, fortune and all that jazz, one show-stopping number after another and the most amazing dancing you’ve ever seen. Get in fast before he season sells out to enjoy the razzle dazzle of this New York institution.”

Murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery, treachery… and All That Jazz. What else could you desire in a musical? So Come On Babe Why Don’t We Paint The Town…and All That Jazz! Playing at the Capital Theatre, Haymarket until July 28th.

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