Theatre Review: Chicago

A good night of ‘razzle dazzle’

Presented by South Coast Choral And Arts Society

Reviewed 3 November 2021

Chicago is one of this reviewer’s favourite musicals. I have seen many productions of this marvellous Kander and Ebb musical vaudeville, both professional and amateur; the film version; and even lucky enough to see (on their visits to Adelaide) Liza Minelli and Chita Rivera perform numbers from it in their respective concerts. So, how does this version hold up? Pretty darn good!!

A director needs to bring their own vision and individual flair to a production and Jonathan Ogilvie does just that, and very well. Having seen his production of The Addams Family I know that this young director has some very inventive and original ideas that really add to the feel of a show. Ogilvie does not disappoint with his vision of Chicago. Female reporters sit at tables on and in front of the stage, writing down the stage activities as if to report them later – great stuff! He also has imbued the show with almost the right amount of sexiness, although a couple of scenes could be a touch naughtier and suggestive. The sexiness overflows into his costume design appropriately though, and I defy any Victor Harborite to try and find black lingerie anywhere closer than Noarlunga. Ogilvie seems to have cornered the market in it.

Natalie Stevenson’s choreography is a clever combination of Bob Fosse’s and her own – he supplied the ‘jazz hands’ and she added seduction and comic charm. The choreography is handled well by the cast, but it is the ensemble who impress with the tightness of the routines.

Kander and Ebb shows require top notch musical performances by the band and this band,  under the musical direction of no less than three MDs (Ali Dunbar, Emma Muhlack and Tim Wormald), is absolutely fantastic. Wormald’s performance in particular is worth the price of admission alone: he conducts, is the drummer, emcees occasionally and even plays a character – wow!

As murderess Velma Kelly, Shannen Beckett seemed a little subdued and a bit too nice at first, on the night reviewed. But it was the first night back from a three day break and by the end of Act One she was sizzling. Ally Miller gave her Roxie the initial innocence and then sly cunning that the role requires, with ease. Both Beckett and Miller hit a home run with one of my favourite songs from the show, the little known My Own Best Friend. Beckett also shares a beautiful stage moment with Georgia Martin (Matron ‘Mama’ Morton) singing the duet Class. Martin seems at one with playing ‘Mama’, delivering a great performance as does Kiara Wiese, with a spectacular soprano voice, as Mary Sunshine.

The two main male roles succeed wonderfully as played by Jon Grear (Billy Flynn) and Chris Stevenson (Amos Hart). Grear plays the shyster lawyer Billy brilliantly with, literally, a twinkle in his eye; whilst Stevenson has everyone ‘aww’ing at his marvellously patheticness.

Very good use is made of the fairly small Town Hall stage. Some of the Act One dialogue scenes seemed a little slow, but the pace seemed to pick up by Act Two – again this may have been because of the break in performances.

All in all, I was impressed by this version of one of my all time favourites. It’s a good night of ‘razzle dazzle’.

Reviewed by Brian Godfrey

Venue: Victor Harbor Town Hall

Season: Until 6 November 2021

Duration: 2 hrs 30 mins (including interval)

Tickets: $18 – $25

Bookings: www.sccas.org.au

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