Emma Knights, founder and owner of Emma Knights Productions (and Curator of this year’s hottest new Fringe venue, LIVE On 5 At The Adelaide Oval) believes in giving audiences classical musicals with an immersive twist. She has given us the highly successful Oklahoma – On A Farm and Pirates (of Penzance) On PopEye. Her latest venture is the highly popular Chicago immersed with a twist of Gin in a secret location. For this excursion into the wonderful world of Prohibition, she has secured the talents of professional actor/director, Adrian Barnes to direct.
Barnes was born and raised in England, moving to Australia in 1981. His training included studying at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, the Bristol School of Dance, CPA Adelaide (now ACArts) and Ballarat University. During the years 1969 through to 1981, Adrian worked mainly in London’s West End in such professional shows as the first revival of West Side Story, Irene, Kiss Me Kate and Hello, Dolly with the original Dolly herself, Carol Channing. His Australian career has consisted of appearing in television series such as Young Doctors, Sons and Daughters, and the recent Stan TV series of Wolf Creek. His Australian stage work includes Pirates of Penzance: The Broadway Version, Simon Gallagher Pirates Tour (starring the late, great Jon English), Seven Little Australians: The Musical, and the recent National tour of The Mousetrap. His most recent stage appearance was with yours truly in Red Phoenix’s production of Don Parties On.
Barnes adds to his experience by saying, “I have also developed and performed many cabaret performances with my friend and partner Pat Wilson. Travelling extensively in Australia and overseas. I have also worked as an acting teacher for the last 30 years, combining my performing career with my teaching at various renowned drama schools including Actors Centre Australia, Ballarat Uni, Toi Whaakari (New Zealand Drama School) and have coached many actors in private studio work in Australia and overseas.”
Adrian very kindly agreed to talk to me about the new and exciting version of Chicago.
B,G,: What made you agree to direct Chicago?.
A.B.: Who could turn down an opportunity to work with one of Kander and Ebb’s masterpieces?
B.G.: Why do you think the show is the phenomenal hit that it is?
A.B.: It celebrates celebrity crime. We’re obsessed with celebrity crime and are fascinated by the details of how the crimes were committed and the characters in the show are based on true stories. That, combined with sensational musical numbers, and some extraordinary opportunities to stage some pretty amazing dance numbers, make it a really great night in the theatre. It’s all about the ‘Razzle Dazzle’ of show business.
B.G.: Emma Knights Productions is known for doing something ‘different’ with extremely well known shows. What’s the ‘difference’ with this version of Chicago?
A.B.: You’ll have to come to the show to see what the difference is, because if I tell you, true to the spirit of the show, I would have to kill you! Emma has resourced a secret location (book your tickets and you will be given a password and instructions on how to get to the venue). It will be, as all of Emma’s shows have been, an immersive production. That means the surroundings are part of the show and so is the audience. We are planning on making the surroundings as reminiscent of 1920’s prohibition Chicago as we can, so if you feel so inclined, join in the fun by dressing in your best Charleston dress or gangster suit, and join us in our prohibition gin palace. You know you want to!
B.G.: Can you give us an idea of the talent involved in this production?
A.B.: I have some of Adelaide’s favourite Music Theatre performers in the cast. Stephanie Rossi as Velma and Fiona Aitkin as Roxie are a really great combination as the leading ladies in the show. Fiery, sexy and in-your-face performers who breathe new life into these amazing characters. Mark DeLaine as Amos is just a great fit for the character, Melanie Smith is a powerful and unique Mama Morton and Jeff Lang as Billy Flynn is a joy to watch and listen to. As always the true identity of Mary Sunshine can’t be revealed but it’s a stunning performance. If I had room I would mention everyone. This cast is talented, inventive, patient and willing to put in the hard yards. That is such a gift for any show’s creative team
B.G.: Choreography is such an important part of the show. What are your thoughts on the choreography in this production?
A.B.: What can I say about Kerreane’s choreography? Kerreane is one of those gifted humans who can make actors look like dancers and make dancers shine. Kerreane’s vision of 1920’s Chicago, is sultry, sexy, imaginative and ‘knock-you-in-the-eye effective’. Kerreane has brought to life the iconic numbers in this show in a new and inventive way that is a joy to be part of.
B.G.: Who will the show appeal to and why?
A.B.: The show appeals to all ages and audiences. The singing and dancing are amazing. There is enough drama to keep the theatre buffs happy and an abundance of music to propel the story along. Some slap-stick comedy, some visual magic and a showcase of Adelaide talent. And the costumes are spectacular!
B.G.: Is there anything else you want to add?
A.B.: I think Emma’s courage should be applauded, to actually have the fortitude and stamina to produce so much live entertainment and theatre in Adelaide is remarkable. It has always been a really tough job to keep a production company going in such a unique environment as Adelaide and Emma continues to put on new shows in unexpected places with a vision, and energy, that is both inspiring and impressive.
Interview by Brian Godfrey
Chicago will perform from 24 – 28 May at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee on the 27th and 28th.
The location will remain secret until you have booked your tickets…however we can tell you it is West of Adelaide city and close to public transport. A week before your booked performance you will receive an email with the location and the password needed for you to obtain entry to the show. Emma has kindly agreed to give another hint: the venue is somewhere within the Charles Sturt Council area.