18 April 2024

Chicago's razzle dazzle is heading our way at the Canberra Theatre

| Genevieve Jacobs

Lucy Maunder plays Roxie Hart in the forthcoming Canberra run of Chicago. Photo: Genevieve Jacobs.

It’s not every day you see the Chief Minister manning a cocktail shaker, but as Canberra’s media arrived in a speakeasy at midday, it was on from the minute we walked in the joint.

The news was big, too – at long last, the hit musical Chicago is coming to Canberra replete with gangsters and dames (one of whom was draped across the bar at Molly).

The longest-running Broadway musical of all time, replete with the “dark and sexy costumes” and show tunes like ‘All that Jazz’, will be at the Canberra Theatre from 7 September, with a truly all-star cast.

Anthony Warlow returns to the national capital for the first time in decades, playing charismatic (and shifty) lawyer Billy Flynn. Zoe Ventoura, of Packed to the Rafters fame, plays fading star Velma Kelly. Ventoura is also Canberra-connected: her mother, Ruth Osborne, is the highly respected director of the QL2 Dance Theatre.

Beloved comedian Peter Rowsthorne plays Roxie’s hapless husband Amos and Asabi Goodman is Matron Mama Morton, who runs the women’s ward in the Cook County Jail.

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But lounging across the bar, within striking distance of that cocktail shaker and a lemon-tossing Canberra Theatre director, Alex Budd, was the undoubted star. Lucy Maunder is ingenue (and potential murderer) Roxie Hart.

By day, Roxie labours in low-rent jobs, but by night, she’s a habitué of Chicago’s notorious jazz clubs, advancing her career by any means possible. She’s a star in the making, even if it takes murder to get her there.

Velma and Roxie both see the potential for their careers if Billy Flynn can get them off their charges – and make a huge splash in the process.

Lucy Maunder steps up to the Bar(r) for Chicago. Photo: Genevieve Jacobs.

Maunder’s Canberra connections reach back to her theatre parents, who fell in love here over a production of My Fair Lady when her mother played Eliza Doolittle.

An accomplished cabaret and theatre performer, Maunder has played alongside Waterlow as Lara in the Australian premiere of Doctor Zhivago, toured with her own cabaret Songs in the Key of Black, played Rizzo in Grease, Miss Honey in the Australian tour of Matilda the Musical, and the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Fun Home.

Chicago’s run is a feather in the cap for Canberra Theatre director Alex Budd. He says there’s increasing evidence, as the new theatre construction looms, that major companies want to build an audience here.

“There is such incredible interest in getting dates at the Canberra Theatre, now and in the future”, he said.

“Major music theatre producers are keen to use the interim period to build a market in Canberra. Arts capital of Australia, here we come!”

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In the past, Canberra’s frequently been at the end of a run. Apart from anything else, the too-small stage at the Theatre meant that after a Broadway smash arrived in Australia, toured the glittering lights of Sydney and Melbourne and finally ended up in the Territory, stage sets had to be chainsawed down to size.

“It was Broadway, Sydney, Canberra and then Mugga Lane for the sets. We can’t get that behind us soon enough”, said Mr Budd, adding that major musicals like Chicago deliver thousands of hours of work for local arts workers and provide a significant boost to the ACT economy.

Chicago has just marked its hundredth show in Australia and Lucy Maunder says it’s an irresistible draw for performers.

“It’s the one show you have to do in your life. It’s an eight-show week, so it’s tough but joyous, and the audience loves it. It never gets old,” she says.

Or as Billy Flynn would have it, explaining his corrupt ways, “This trial …. The whole world … it’s all … show business.”

Chicago opens at the Canberra Theatre Centre on 7 September. Pre-sale tickets are available now; tickets for the general public go on sale at 9 am on Friday, 19 April. Visit Canberra Theatre for details, dates and pricing.

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on Riotact.

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