music / “By Arrangement”, Selby & Friends. At James O Fairfax Theatre. May 22. Review by CLINTON WHITE.
DIRECTOR Jim McMullen and his inventive creative team have cleverly combined to produce an excellent and highly entertaining production of “Chicago”.
On opening night there was some sloppy follow-spotting, intonation weakness in the otherwise superb band, overly long scene changes tghat necessitated long “vamps” and an oddly unimaginative “hanging scene” but these were minor quibbles in a production which expertly drew together every element and thread of theatre to come up with a tight and very classy show.
The Ian Croker/Jim McMullen designed set was imaginative and highly functional with an onstage alcove for the band balanced by lawyer’s office opposite, leaving ample centre performance space for a two level jail, staircase, courtroom and streetscape. Costume design by Jill McMullen was stunning, varying from skimpy, glitzy, tight fitting and black to lavish, white and formal.
Amongst many highlights was the choreography. Utilising the original Bob Fosse routines but adding circus, mime, advanced tap and comedy Hannah Carey and Emily Appleton have created a comprehensive breadth of dance styles. The slick routines were then performed by a tight, sassy, well drilled and disciplined cast. I’ve seen many versions of “Chicago” but never have I encountered a better interpretation of the ventriloquist song, “We Both Reached for the Gun”. It was phenomenally good!
Spirited and wonderfully aggressive tempi from Musical Director Chris Ronan, who conducted his well balanced band with flair and confidence, set the tone for the show and created a musical excitement which matched the flashy elements of the show.
Vanessa de Jager and Kelly Roberts as Roxie and Velma were outstanding in every respect with perfect execution of their complex dance routines, bold and brassy singing and totally convincing characterisations. Will Huang played a deliciously slippery Billy Flynn, Jonathan Rush was a suitably down trodden Amos Hart and Andrew McMillan a live-wire Fred Casely. After a tentative start Shell Tully blossomed as Mama Morton and, despite some questionable high range pitch, Ben Wilson as Mary Sunshine effortlessly won over audience hearts. An energetic large ensemble provided high quality back up to the leads with good singing, consistent focus, enthusiastic acting and, of course, incredible dance and movement skills.
Add in fascinating mood lighting from Hamish McConchie and mostly flawless sound production from Nick Cossart and the show was all “Class”.
“Chicago” runs until 25 March at the Erindale Theatre, get along, it’s a great night of musical theatre!