One of the world’s longest running and most beloved musicals returns to the Mother City this week after more than a decade’s absence. ‘CHICAGO’ can be seen at the Artscape Opera House from March 15 until April 14, after which it will head to Montecasino’s Teatro in Johannesburg from April 20 to May 26.
Bookings are now open via Computicket.
South African audiences will get the opportunity to refamiliarise themselves with the nightclub singer, the double-murderess, the smooth-talking lawyer and a cell block of sin, not to mention show-stopping songs like ‘All that Jazz’, ‘Cell Block Tango’ and ‘Mister Cellophane’ when the award-winning Broadway and West End musical hits the planks.
The company returned to South Africa in January this year after touring Auckland in New Zealand in 2018, followed by Wellington where audiences were dazzled and critics raved. In October the show moved to China, opening at the Grand Theatre in Chongqing. Three more engagements followed in October before opening in Beijing in November; Guangzhou in December and Shanghai in December and January of this year. After the South African season the SA International company will be touring Europe.
From the opening line to curtain close – global audiences have been unanimous over the decades that there is nothing like ‘CHICAGO’ on stage. Originally staged in Cape Town and Johannesburg in 2005 and again, owing to popular demand, in 2008 at Montecasino’s Teatro and Artscape, this show has been enjoyed by more than 210000 local theatregoers.
After eleven years, this sensual, seductive musical returns to these venues bringing back one of this country’s most successful theatre productions. Back for the show are leads Samantha Peo (‘Cabaret’, ‘West Side Story’, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’), now in the role of Velma Kelly; and Ilse Klink (‘Mamma Mia!’, ‘Show Boat’, ‘Isidingo’), who plays Matron Mama Morton for the third South African season. Craig Urbani (‘Sound of Music’, ‘Scandal’) reprises the role of the devious lawyer Billy Flynn in South Africa. Also returning to the show is KJ Haupt (‘Carmen’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’) as Mary Sunshine with Carmen Pretorius (‘Sound of Music’, ‘Jersey Boys’) and Grant Towers (‘Funny Girl’, ‘Sound of Music’) joining the company in the principal roles of husband and wife, Roxie Hart and Amos Heart.
Winner of six Tonys, two Oliviers, one Grammy, two Baftas and six Academy Awards, ‘CHICAGO’ is the longest-running musical revival in Broadway history. An estimated 31 million people have seen ‘CHICAGO’, which has played over 32500 performances worldwide.
‘CHICAGO’ was first created by the legendary Broadway trio of John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (book/lyrics) and Bob Fosse (co-author, original director and choreographer) in 1975, and was based on a 1926 Broadway play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, a journalist from the Chicago Tribune who had covered the sensational trials of two women, both of whom were accused of killing their lovers whilst under the influence of drink and jazz.
Peter Tromp caught up with returning actress Samantha Peo, now in a new role.
How does it feel to be returning with ‘Chicago’ after more than a decade?
It honestly feels like the biggest blessing to return to this ‘gift’ of a show. Personally and professionally it couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time. It feels like the stars have literally aligned.
In the past productions that showed in Cape Town, you played Roxie Hart, but in this iteration, you’re returning in the role of Velma Kelly, essentially Hart’s nemesis. How much of a challenge has it been to adapt to this new role? What did you discover about the play from this differing perspective, if anything at all?
I loved playing Roxie Hart, but so much has happened in my life – so much personal growth and discovery – and it feels quite synchronistic to bring that to the role of Velma, especially as Velma is a lot more worldly wise than Roxie. It really has allowed me to discover this show from another perspective, and to realise how much I have grown as an artist and a person.
Tell us a little about the cast assembled for this production, because we have some returning actors, but also a whole bunch of new faces. What’s the dynamic like amongst you all?
We’ve just returned from a very long tour away from home, and that can be really tricky: the homesickness; the missing of close friends; family and certain support structures. So you really get to see the best and worst versions of yourself and everyone else. But again all of that leads to beautiful growth, and can lead to strong bonds formed. It will be lovely to see everyone on home turf.
After “three tours of duty”, what have you come to appreciate the most about ‘Chicago’?
I have come to appreciate that this really is a show in a million; that there is a reason behind its title as the longest running American musical. The brilliance is in the gift of a great book and the stunning musical arrangements of standout songs. So I salute Kander and Ebb and the genius legend that is Mr. Bob Fosse.