Beaumaris Theatre has put on the old “Razzle Dazzle” and staged their production of Chicago in a sassy and stylish fashion. With music by John Kander and book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, the show, set in the seamy world of 1920s Chicago delivers a sizzling good time to its audience from start to finish.
Revolving around the showgirl, Roxie Hart who has murdered her lover and seeks the help of sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn to get her acquitted, Chicago plays with its audience and audaciously asks them to examine if crime does or does not pay. Billy Flynn has other clients, in particular 'Velma Kelly' a vaudeville performer who thinks she knows all the tricks to clear herself of her own murder charge. Once Roxy appears on the scene a battle between the two women ensues as they vie for media attention to gain sympathy for their cases.
Directed by Debbie Keyt with musical direction by Rhonda Vaughan and choreography by Camilla Klesman Beaumaris Theatre has mounted the show with panache. The staging is crisp, fresh and seamless, utilizing every inch of the venue to advantage including the walls. The musicians, in full view of the audience on their raised perch at the back of the stage clearly enjoy every note they play and enhance the performances without overshadowing them. The production’s movement vocabulary, inspired by Fosse, supports the storytelling without taking over and every performer on stage clearly relishes the opportunity of physically bringing this show to life. It is a credit to every member of this troupe that each musical number is so gustily sung and every moment energetically realised.
Performances across the entire ensemble are outstanding. Deanne Palmieri as Velma Kelly and Amy Gridley as Roxie Hart anchor the show and work as perfect foils, their vocal duos soaring and powerful enough to raise goose bumps. Shannon Pincombe as Billy Flynn has the perfect balance of showmanship and sleaze with a distinctive voice that oozes charisma and oil. Dan Bellis as Roxy’s downtrodden husband Amos delivers one of the show’s many standout performances with his heartrending rendition of Mister Cellophane in which he masterfully manipulates the audience with honest pathos. Not to be overlooked are the “Merry Murderesses” who populate every number they inhabit with lusty abandon. Their voices and characters are distinct and visceral; each played with a wicked sense of famine power in stance and attitude.
The lighting design by Alan Crispin is artfully woven into the fabric of the piece and serves to create a sense of time, place and atmosphere. With a purple and black colour pallet with flashes of white and pale blue the show’s visual signature is employed to further augment the minimalistic nature of the staging. Ample splashes of sequins, feathers and fringe securely pin the time period in place reinforcing Keyt’s clear vision of the show.
Those who have the good fortune to have secured a ticket to this show, which sold out prior to opening night, are in for a treat. In this production of Chicago, the bar for amateur theatre has been placed high and the entire company soar effortlessly over it.