Alinta Chidzey and Natalie Bassingthwaighte are perfectly matched and take a contagious delight in bringing shameless wickedness to life. As their stagestruck murderesses compete for public attention and practise their perjuries behind bars (with an eye to trading on their notoriety, on release, in their own vaudeville double-act), you can’t help but cheer them on.
Chidzey makes the demanding choreography look like a breeze.
Chidzey’s Velma starts with a silky rendition of All That Jazz, leads a killer team to eroticise murder in Cell Block Tango, and makes the demanding choreography look like a breeze. She’s also very funny in limber physical comedy sequences and brings a jagged edge to the jaded humour.
One highlight is Velma’s savagely ironic duet with Casey Donovan’s Mama Morton, Whatever Happened to Class? Their plaintive harmonising keeps slipping into the rip and growl of jazz vocals, and Donovan – as you’d expect from the Australian Idol winner – totally has the pipes for those. She also rips the throat out of that anthem to corruption, When You’re Good to Mama, to rapturous applause.
As Roxie, Bassingthwaighte has a ditzy facade that only lightly disguises the calculating viper underneath, balancing Velma’s husky narcissism with an effervescent and poisonously charming variety. It’s a finely crafted, black-comic performance, airily sung, and Bassingthwaighte dances up a storm with her “boys”: a ripped ensemble with all the jazz moves at their command.
The one disappointment is Jason Donovan as silver-tongued defence attorney Billy Flynn. On opening night he looked and sounded grimly effortful, as if he had a mild cold or had strained his voice. Either way, it’s the opposite of what you want for this smooth operator, who should be able to croon his way into the piece with maximum suaveness.
It doesn’t detract much from a production that has everything else going for it: terrific leads, a triple-threat ensemble that nails the songs and choreography, and a large jazz orchestra (with a horn section to die for) playing their hearts out on a bandstand onstage.
On most scores, it’s more polished and seamlessly entertaining than the 2009 version with Caroline O’Connor, and ideal if you desire a sinful Christmas treat.