Tag: Alinta Chidzey

Review: Chicago

Full of razzle dazzle

By Rebecca Waese

The sizzling Jazz-age musical, Chicago, opened at the State Theatre at the Arts Centre in Melbourne last night, satirizing the idea of the celebrity criminal, the corrupt justice system and the media that glamourizes American criminals, and especially, gorgeous female murderesses. Based on a 1926-play written by crime reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins on historical female murderesses who used their feminine wiles to get away with murder, this revival of the 1975 American musical is eerily resonant today in the age of ‘fake news’ where phoney celebrities dominate the headlines and Insta feeds. It was sultry, and full of ‘razzle dazzle’ with some fine moments of comedic timing and satire, and extraordinary talent.

Alinta Chidzey as Velma Kelly brought her outstanding talents in dance and voice to the stage, with vertical leg extensions and a vocal range and power that took my breath away. Having toured alongside Hugh Jackman in The Boy from Oz and winning an impressive collection of awards for Musical Theatre, Chidzey is one to watch. The casting of Casey Donovan as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton was bang-on. The former Australian Idol winner was a powerhouse to behold, owning the space with intensity and adding a sexy physical confidence to the role which was fabulous to see. Natalie Bassingthwaighte brought engaging comedic timing and physicality to the role of Roxie Hart, particularly in the press conference scene where the lawyer, Billy Flynn, played by Jason Donovan, uses her as his ventriloquized dummy to construct a new narrative and re-frame her as innocent. Donovan was slick, charming and humane in his dramatic portrayal of the celebrity lawyer and connected well to the Melbourne audience who welcomed him warmly. The vocals of Jason Donovan and Bassingthwaighte, however, were just not on the same level as Chidzey and Casey Donovan, whose voices filled the vast theatre and were in a league of their own.

Highlights of the show included the onstage orchestra (directed by Daniel Edmonds) who stole a few celebrity moments after interval with some upstanding jazz solos that got the crowd roaring. Understated cuckold Amos Hart, played by Rodney Dobson, had the best jazz hands in the show in his compelling, ‘Mr. Cellophane’ and the ensemble was extraordinarily strong with salivating sexy moves from Fred Casely, played by Andrew Cook and Fosse-inspired choreography by Ann Reinking and Gary Chryst that popped and pulsed with impressive synchronicity.

Opening on the historic night of Donald Trump’s impeachment, this Chicago production voices a timely and ironic message on the decline of justice and truth in America. Velma comments, “You know, a lot of people have lost faith in America and what America stands for’ and Billy Flynn’s response is to ‘Razzle Dazzle them… How can they see with sequins in their eyes?” A self-aware musical production such as this exposes our collective desire for both glamour and truth. With home-grown stars and a formidable ensemble, you will be entertained on a number of levels by this Australian production of Chicago.

Until 23rd February, tickets at http://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2019/musicals/chicago

Photography by Jeff Busby

 

The Production Company Presents CURTAINS

 Marvelous music and joyously good fun

By Bradley Storer

The madcap trials and tribulations of a Broadway-bound musical falling apart at the seams, a classic ‘whodunnit’ murder-mystery, a romantic comedy as well as a tribute to all people with passion for the theatre, all bound together by the final score devised by the legendary team of Kander and Ebb – who could ask for anything more in a show?

Curtains

Simon Gleeson in the role of Lt. Frank Cioffi – lead investigator of the aforementioned murder – is a revelation, his leading man charisma channeled into a role that would be the comedic sidekick in any other piece but here is the focal point of this ode to the theatre world and its people. His comedic timing is exceedingly precise and his rendition of the wistful ‘Coffee Shop Nights’ is absolutely mesmerizing, his rich resonant voice peeking through at a few artfully chosen moments.

The rest of the cast work wonderfully as an ensemble but a mixed bag in terms of individual success. Melissa Langton as the brassy producer of the show nails her character’s bitter (and hilarious) one-liners, but her big number ‘It’s a Business’ falls slightly flat despite her magnificent belt. Alex Rathgeber finds the heartfelt sincerity in his caddish composer, and his touching ballad ‘I Miss the Music’ is a highlight of the show – Lucy Maunder is radiant as his estranged lyricist/wife. Alinta Chidzey sang beautifully as the ingénue Niki Harris but tended to vanish in a role that seems bland and underwritten.

Colin Lane was slightly off-kilter at first as the British director of the show within the show, his accent seeming a little wobbly, but found his feet with pithy non-sequiturs punctuated throughout the evening. Nicki Wendt as the woefully untalented diva whose demise launches the plot delivers a performance of such scene-stealing awfulness that it feels slightly disappointing (in the best possible way) to see her for only the first five minutes of the show.

The ensemble had clearly worked hard at creating individuated background characters, devising moments of sneaky comedy for those looking hard enough, and danced brilliantly in all their numbers, with the orchestra under musical director John Foreman giving the glorious Kander and Ebb score the magnificent treatment it deserved at all times.

Balancing an incredibly tricky mixture of narrative tones, The Production Company delivers this Australian professional premiere with panache, this tribute to the ‘theatre people’ of the world as a whole shining with warm-hearted joy.

Venue: The State Theatre, The Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne.

Date: 20th August – 28th August

Times: 7:30pm Wednesday – Saturday, Matinees 1pm Wed/2pm Saturday/3pm Sunday

Prices: $42 – $130

Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au , 1300 182 183, or at the box office.

REVIEW: The Production Company’s SHOWBOAT

Difficult classic musical beautifully re-staged for modern audiences

By Narelle Wood

Off the back of Guys and Dolls, The Production Company have put together another brilliant production, this time bringing to the stage Show Boat, directed by Roger Hodgman.

Mostly set in the Deep South during the late 1800’s, the story follows the characters of the Show Boat over the best part of 30 years. The show mostly centres on the cautionary love story of Captain Andy’s daughter Magnolia (Alinta Chidzey) and the no-good-river-gambler Gaylord Ravenol (Gareth Keegan).

Showboat - Alinta Chidzey and Gareth Keegan

But the show is about more than just the clichéd moral tale for good girls who meet bad boys and fall in love at first sight. The setting also allows for exploration of race relationships, the changing nature of entertainment (especially with the advent of new technology) and, perhaps most poignantly, the idea that no matter how much things might change, things also stay very much the same.

Chidzey and Keegan were tremendous in their roles as Magnolia and Gaylord, although Chidzey’s wig did seem a little too blonde for her darker features. Philip Gould was charming as Captain Andy, who, along with Ellie May (Nicole Melloy) and Frank (Glenn Hill) brings much needed light-heartedness to temper the darker side of the show. Judith Roberts provided some straight-laced humour as Parthy, and the exceptionally strong cast is rounded off with Christina O’Neill as Julie, Heru Pinkasova as Queenie and Eddie Muliaumaseali’i as Joe. While the performances of all the cast members including the ensemble were brilliant, Muliaumaseali’i’s performance of Ol’ Man River gave me chills, and it can only be described as sublime.

My expectations of any show from The Production Company is extremely high and I never walk away disappointed. Once again the costuming was great, from the 1800’s dresses complete with bustles to the asymmetrical raised hemlines of the 1920’s. Hodgman cleverly addressed the need to have a boat on stage through some stunning use of digital imagery. And given that I overheard a number of people singing on the way out of the theatre, I’d say that the orchestra did a pretty good job too.

If you didn’t see Guys and Dolls then Show Boat is an absolute must; the production value is priceless, the performances flawless, and, once again, Muliaumaseali’i’s rendition of “Ol’ Man River” is something not to be missed.

Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre, Melbourne
Season: 21st to 23rd July 7.30pm, 20th August 1pm, 23rd August 2pm and 24th August 3pm.
Tickets: Full $48-$119 | Conc $24-$105
Bookings: http://artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on