‘Chicago’ was razzle-dazzling.
The students of Brisbane Academy Musical Theatre (BAMT) have given audience members the old razzle dazzle night with their production of ‘Chicago’ at the Hayward Street Theatre in Stafford.
‘Chicago’ is based on a play by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, who covered real homicides committed by women in the city in the 1920s. Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse (who directed and choreographed the original production) turned the play into the iconic American musical that tells the story of femme fatales Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart.
The dark, warehouse-feel of the theatre worked well to evoke both the 1920s jazz atmosphere and the stark prison interior. Risers framed the stage, with a platform high upstage and a silver tinsel-covered entryway in the centre. Lighting design and operation by Wes Bluff and Brie Siemsen, respectively, involved twelve spotlights lining the ceiling, with red hues colouring ‘All That Jazz’ and a bit of circus-inspired lighting in ‘Razzle Dazzle’ standing out as particularly effective.
Costuming in black, white and silver was consistent throughout, with a few brightly coloured dresses to highlight Roxie and Mary Sunshine. It was a less glamorous wardrobe than previous versions of ‘Chicago’, though the feather fans added a familiar glitz in ‘All I Care About.’
Direction by Maureen Bowra was smooth: great use of space, fast pacing and comedic delivery that earned all the right laughs from the audience – and some new ones. The American accents were excellent throughout (Toby Redwood’s Amos Hart and Daniel Terribile’s various characters were particularly good) and the scenes flowed well between the musical numbers.
Choreography (also by Bowra) gave a nod to Fosse with some more contemporary movement weaved in. The cast earned applause and laughter for so many of the numbers, but ‘We Both Reached for the Gun’ was a highlight. Kelsey Todd as Roxie and Sam Caruana as Billy were laugh-out-loud funny in their delivery, and the entire ensemble brought a fantastic energy to the number – every number.
Eleanor Grieve was commanding in her role as Velma, bringing an almost tangible desperation to the character as the story progressed. ‘I Can’t Do It Alone’ was especially enjoyable, with her backflip and pirouette gags that any dancer will appreciate. And ‘Class’, featuring Grieve and Ruby Thompson as Matron “Mama” Morton, was excellent for the chemistry between the two women and the beautifully blended vocals.
Todd as Roxie was impossible not to watch. Her delivery was natural and compelling, standing her ground against Caruana’s hilariously sleazy Billy and carelessly breaking the heart of Redwood’s sweet, naive Amos. Her attention to detail in the spaces between her big moments was impressive; her singsong ad libs during ‘Roxie’ were particularly delightful.
The two merry murderesses and other leads were extremely well-supported by the entire cast – any number of whom may one day see their name in lights: Anna Reynolds, Bea Kelly, Bella Gordon, Cassidy Laffin, Daniel Terribile, Emily Pell, Jess Thomson, Kate Baxter, Maddy Markham, Mina Aanat, Nathaniel Savy, Olivia Wilkins, Reagan Bowes, Sarah Hindle, Shannah Barrish, Shayla Barrett, Tamara Long.
Kudos to the entire cast and creative team of scintillating sinners behind BAMT’s ‘Chicago’. We at Theatre Haus can’t wait to see what these performers get up to next.