LIVE: Dazzling Chicago and all that jazz

LAWYERS are often seen as showmen performing to a crowd. That’s literally the case with Billy Flynn, the lawyer who defends two chorus girls charged with murder in the musical Chicago.

Nicholas Stabler, who plays Billy Flynn in SNAP Productions’ staging of Chicago, says his character is introduced to the audience singing All I Care About is Love, accompanied by a chorus of fan dancers.

‘‘He loves being a showman,’’ Stabler said. 

‘‘He has found his place in a world where he can be a perpetual star. He’s always in the spotlight.’’

Stabler notes that Billy does have one moment where he shows real emotion. Roxie Hart, one of his clients, is about to go on trial for murder, and he tells her ‘‘It’s going to be OK’’.

Otherwise, Billy is giving Roxie a big build-up in the public eye, exemplified by the number We Both Reached for the Gun where, surrounded by chorus girls, he helps Roxie tell her story to newspaper reporters.

Billy’s treatment of Roxie is not appreciated by his other client in jail on a murder charge, Velma Kelly. She competes with Roxie for public attention and sympathy.

Katie Wright, who plays Roxie, and Louise Thornton, as Velma, have  a lot of fun as the competitive accused murderesses.

Chicago, which opens at Broadmeadow’s Hunter Theatre on February 13, has songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret), including All That Jazz, and a script by the show’s original 1975 director, Bob Fosse.

The musical, which is set in Chicago in the 1920s, is based on a play written in that era by a reporter who had covered the trials of two women charged with murder but who were acquitted despite the evidence pointing to their guilt.

In helping put the musical together, Fosse had all the musical numbers written and staged in the manner of vaudeville numbers from the 1920s as a reflection of the showbiz ambitions of Roxie and Velma.

The story’s other characters include Roxie’s faithful and trusting husband Amos (played by Drew Holmes), avaricious jail matron Mama Morton (Megan Williams), glowing reporter Mary Sunshine (Katie McCloskey) and a master of ceremonies (Patrick Coull). Paul King and Nicole Maslowski direct, with Maslowski sharing choreographic duties with Silvia Martinez. Michael Nolan is the  vocal director and Kieran Norman the orchestral director.

The musical numbers include a reflective patter song, Mr Cellophane, for the hapless Amos; Mama Morton’s commanding When You’re Good to Mama, the Spanish-rhythmed Cell Block Tango, performed by the jail’s convicted murderers; and Razzle Dazzle, as Billy Flynn begins his defence of Roxie.

Louise Thornton said Cell Block Tango was a musical number with great energy.

‘‘It also reflects the nature of the show,’’ she said. ‘‘This is one of the few that have the strong female characters that are generally lacking in theatre.’’

And while most of the women have a predatory nature, Katie Wright noted that her Roxie had several layers.

‘‘She’s feisty, a know-it-all and sarcastic, but underneath that she’s also vulnerable.’’ 

Roxie’s first song, Funny Honey, shows her appreciation of Amos for taking a killing rap, but the mood changes as it is revealed that Amos has changed his mind after learning the victim’s name.

Chicago opens at the Hunter Theatre, Cameron Street, Broadmeadow (in the grounds of Hunter School of the Performing Arts), on Wednesday, February 13, and plays Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, plus Saturday matinees at 2pm, until February 23. Tickets: $35, concession $30. Bookings: hspa.nsw.edu.au or 49523355 (during school hours).

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