It’s got fabulous songs, stunning choreography, a story literally ripped from the headlines, and more razzle-dazzle than a Christmas tree. Broadway’s longest-running musical of all time, Chicago, opens in August with an amazing new production featuring a stellar cast.
Based on the true story of sensationalised trials of two women accused of murder in 1920s Chicago, the Kander and Ebb musical with a book by legendary choreographer, Bob Fosse, is a stylised depiction of a frenzied media circus that feels lamentably too familiar today. Tom Burlinson plays flamboyant lawyer, Billy Flynn.
“Billy is a very successful lawyer. He’s never lost a case. He’s very experienced and he knows what he’s doing,” says Burlinson.
He sees Billy as a kind of celebrity, surrounded by beautiful women, manipulating the press – and the facts – to get what he wants.
“Billy is an expert in creating fake news, he doesn’t mind bending the truth at all in order to get his results,” Burlinson explains. “But he has to be convincing because otherwise people would see right through him.”
Burlinson’s career began with television and several highly acclaimed films but the latter part of his career has centred around stage musicals and singing Sinatra and jazz/big band standards. So this role is right in his wheelhouse.
Casey Donovan first came to light as the winner of Australian Idol in 2004, and while she has continued to record and perform songs, she has also augmented her resume with roles in theatre and stage musicals. She’s very excited about playing Matron ‘Mama’ Morton.
“I love mama. She’s sassy, she’s staunch. Staunch is a word I use a lot when I refer to Mama. You know, there’s [sic] lots of different colours to Mama. Although she’s hard on the surface, she does a lot for the girls in jail,” says Donovan.
Mama, like all the characters in Chicago, is shaped by her surroundings and is what she is as a matter of survival. She sleeps with one eye open.
“Back in the 1920s you had to do that, you know, you couldn’t turn your back on anyone, and you couldn’t walk down a dark street without thinking[…] You had to get from point A to point B and stay alive,” explains Donovan.
Donovan is also no stranger to relentless, often crazed media hype, and that’s why she loves playing Mama; Mama knows how to work the system. She cites Class, a duet with Velma, and Cell Block Tango as two of her favourite songs, but it’s all the other performances that she really enjoys.
“Watching these women just smashing it on stage with their dancing, it’s beautiful to watch.”
Aug 20-Oct 13. Capitol Theatre, 13 Campbell St, Haymarket. $79-$205+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.chicagothemusical.com.au
By Rita Bratovich