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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Chicago (CLOC) at the National Theatre, St Kilda - 2 hours plus interval

CLOC's production of the hit musical Chicago sizzles.

It is cheeky and cheery and holds its own nearly half a century after it was first produced and more than a quarter century on from its revival.

Photos by Ben Fon

The music by John Kander with lyrics from Fred Ebb and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse continue to resonate.

Musically, it is toe tapping and ear pleasing.

Chicago is risqué and rebellious – a showcase for show ponies on both sides of the law.

Set in the windy city in the jazz age, the story is about the lengths to which disreputable types will go to scam the system.

Chorus girl Roxie Hart (Emily McKenzie) is enraged when Fred Casely (Mack Williams) breaks off an affair and shoots him dead.

She tries to pin the murder on her hapless husband Amos (Thomas Kitt-Thompson), but that backfires.

Sent to Cook County Jail, Hart is incarcerated with other women accused of slaying their lovers in a block overseen by bribe-taking Matron “Mama” Morton (Elise Stevens).

Foremost among the inmates is vaudevillian Velma Kelly (Melanie Ott) who quickly dismisses Hart as irrelevant.

But their relationship takes a decidedly toxic turn when Hart engages the services of celebrity lawyer Billy Flynn (Will Hanley), who is also Kelly’s legal counsel.

Money hungry Flynn – who is adept at sexing up get out of jail stories – prioritises Hart’s case over Kelly’s and turns Hart's defence into a media circus.

In his sights is sympathetic tabloid columnist Mary Sunshine (Elijah Ziegeler).

Among the casualties of his manipulation is Hart’s estranged, none too smart husband, Amos (the one she tried to pin the murder on).

CLOC’s Chicago is a good looker, combining a circus theme with vaudeville.

The talent on show has heaps of fun with the material, as well they should.

Provocatively kitted out, emcees Yann Tixhon and Thomas O’Reilly start by providing a rich and raunchy taste of what is to come.

And then the powerful voice of Melanie Ott gives us more of the wow factor, as she literally swings into action.

She plays Kelly wonderfully. She is bold, brassy and belligerent.

Emily McKenzie ensures Hart is a major pain in Velma’s backside. Her affectations and vocal delivery impress.

Will Hanley is a dynamic force as the sleazy legal eagle who feels right at home in the cesspool of reprobates. He is a showman with a mean set of pipes.

Thomas Kitt-Thompson makes the most of his time on stage as Hart’s downtrodden husband.

He solicits every ounce of sympathy we can muster with his big number in the second act, Mister Cellophane.

Elise Stevens makes her mark the moment she takes to the stage as Mama Morton in When You’re Good to Mama.

Elijah Ziegeler is well cast as Mary Sunshine, in a role traditionally played by a man in drag.

The chorus numbers are real crowd pleasers and members of the ensemble don’t let us down with their razzle dazzle.

In summary then, CLOC’s Chicago is a beauty.

Co-directed by Lynette and Chris White, with musical direction from Malcom Huddle, it is playing at the National Theatre in St Kilda until 22nd October, 2022.


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