Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

02/11/2013 - 21/12/2013

Production Details

Auckland Theatre Company’s outstanding 2013 season ends with a BANG, as Chicago, directed by the musical maestro Michael Hurst and starring Lucy Lawless, Amanda Billing and Shane Cortese, opens at Q Theatre on 1 November.

1920s, Chicago. Cook County Jail is home to a bawdy band of murderesses, all of whom have eradicated their quickly insignificant others. Chanteuses Velma Kelly (Lucy Lawless) and Roxie Hart (Amanda Billing) have both acquired a spot on Death Row. Velma enlists the help of prison matron Mama Morton (Colleen Davis) and smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn (Shane Cortese) to turn her incarceration into a media frenzy. But, not one to rest on her laurels, Roxie comes up with a foxy plan to steal back the limelight and, instead of wrangling the law, the two divas find themselves fighting the ultimate battle – the race to superstardom.

Set in the legendary city during the Roaring Twenties, an era renowned for organised crime, alcohol prohibition and the very best jazz, Michael Hurst’s version of this razor-sharp show about bad girls behaving badly will bring all the sass, brass and a%$e of his most recent Auckland Theatre Company musical Cabaret (2010).

Of the production, Director Michael Hurst said, “The thing about Chicago is that underneath all the jazz and the fizz is the pulsing, wild, abandoned and desperate beating heart of a corrupt and exploitative society. It’s a dark, sexy and vicious tale, propelled by extraordinary music – the rhythms of murder and corruption; the rhythms of lust. It’s a revelatory tale of the transience of celebrity. And it’s fabulous.”

Auckland Theatre Company Artistic Director, Colin McColl, said, “The longest-running American musical ever to play the West End, Chicago has garnered a stash of glitzy awards in many revivals worldwide. Michael’s production stars the hottest cast of the year including Lucy Lawless, fresh from her role as Mama Morton in Chicago at the Hollywood Bowl alongside Brooke Shields, Stephen Moyer and Ashlee Simpson.”

One of the most famous shows of all time, Chicago contains all the elements of an unadulterated musical – celebrity, scandal, corruption, scantily-clad women and serious jazz hands. With a soundtrack that includes the show-stoppers All That Jazz, Razzle Dazzle, When You’re Good to Momma and Class, the winner of six Tony Awards, two Oliviers and a Grammy will envelop the Q Auditorium for an unmissable season.

This trial… the whole world… it’s all… Show Business.

Location: Q Rangatira (305 Queen St)
Booking info
+64 9 309 9771 or
Season dates
Preview: Friday 1 November, 8pm
Opening: Saturday 2 November, 8pm
Closing: Saturday 21 December , 7pm (extended from 30 November)

For more information –

Roxie Hart – Amanda Billing
Velma Kelly – Lucy Lawless
Amos – Andrew Grainger
Billy Flynn – Shane Cortese
Mama Morton – Colleen Davis
Narrator/Little Mary Sunshine – Sandra Rasmussen
Chorus – Will Barling, Stephen Butterworth, Mike Edward, Rebekkah Schoonbeek, Sia Trokenheim, Hannah Tasker-Poland, Lavinia Uhila   

Creative team
Director - Michael Hurst
Musical Director - John Gibson
Set Designer - John Harding
Costume Designer - Lesley Burkes-Harding
Lighting Design - Sean Lynch
Stage Manager - Chelsea Adams
Set Construction - 2construct

Theatre , Musical ,

Give ’em the old tit-ill-ation

Review by James Wenley 05th Nov 2013

If you think you know Chicago, leave your expectations at the theatre door. The stockings haven’t just been rolled down, they’ve been ripped completely off in this down and dirty, hyper-sexualised re-imagining of the Kander and Ebb musical from the warped mind of virtuoso Michael Hurst.

There’s jazz, and a whole lot more besides. No. Make that less. [More]


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An intoxicating, heady cocktail

Review by Janet McAllister 05th Nov 2013

With this fabulous, fast-tempoed spectacle of sizzle and sass, Michael Hurst once again proves himself an exceptional director of musical theatre, an auteur of clever, sexy noir with strong conceptual vision and stylistic flourish. 

Chicago‘s cynical 1975 spin on spin – 1920s flappers who murder their way into the limelight – anticipates our own age of eager instant internet infamy. Hurst ups the ante in this Auckland Theatre Company show: reporters are not lawyer Billy Flynn’s puppets but blow-up sex dolls. One corpse hangs by the neck, another swings over the audience by the feet. In the razzle-dazzle circus court, a near-naked woman (Hannah Tasker-Poland) holds a naked flame while Wonder Woman (Rebekkah Schoonbeek) rollerblades by, upholding the word “Truth”. [More]


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Sexual Dexterity in Chicago: ATC smashes open a classic musical for a new era

Review by Vanessa Byrnes 03rd Nov 2013

Q Theatre in the round. The lights plunge suddenly into darkness. It’s lockdown time in the women’s block at Cook County Jail, and with that rapid introduction we abruptly enter the seedy underworld of Chicago, 1920s. Michael Hurst’s inspiring take on this classic musical is daring, fresh, dynamic, and bristling with sexual energy. His fearless direction and John Gibson’s genius musical direction make the show look and sound as if it was written this morning. This is a totally new take on a classic musical. It’s a wild night out.

ATC’s Chicago is a daring mix of Underbelly and Kurt Weill; strength and seediness combine in black and white tones to tell the story of Velma Kelly (Lucy Lawless) and Roxie Hart (Amanda Billing), both murderers who have a spot on death row. Who will use the publicity machine to their own best advantage?

Amanda Billing is spectacular in the central role; she’s grounded and emotionally connected to the journey throughout. Her singing control is especially fine in ‘Funny Honey’ and ‘Roxie’, where she brings untarnished ambition to the tone of each song in different ways. Billing is a fine mover and her devotion to the moment through song is amazing to watch. She is the total package.

Lucy Lawless brings her supreme confidence and multiple skillset to bear on Velma’s wicked plight. She’s a star mover and statuesque singer to rival the best. ‘All That Jazz’ is Velma’s torch song/ ramped-up ode to sex, and Lawless rips it out. Excellent casting with these two.

Shane Cortese is a slick mover – and can power out the songs – in his rat-pack inspired Billy Flynn. ‘All I Care About’ and ‘Razzle Dazzle’ are spectacular. His timing is impeccable.

Andrew Grainger as Amos Hart is fantastic as the solid, real-world counterpoint that anchors the piece against the cast of screwed-up characters bent on revenge or ambition. His version of ‘Mr. Cellophane’ is a rip-roaring expression of anger and pain that opens the song up to new levels of expression. This is a raw, bristling take on the number that’s normally more at home in the vein of A Chorus Line. I now understand the song’s suppressed anger and rousing passion. I prefer this one any day.

A cast of 14 carry the clarity of the piece with equal force. The support dancers and actors writhe and flex (and was that a twerk?). Shona McCullagh’s choreography caps off the unfettered sexual energy driving the piece. Nothing is off-limits, and apart from the initial shock value it works to eke out the wretched existence of junkies and fetishists in Cook County Jail. The cast is uniformly weird and brilliant. The band is fantastic.

Special mention must go to Colleen Davis as Mama Morton. She rips open ‘When You’re Good to Mama’ like a wild thing, and duets beautifully with Lucy Lawless on ‘Class’. Hannah Tasker-Poland is mesmerizing throughout in her four roles. Stephen Butterworth and Mike Edward are terrific in their three roles, sometimes to heart-stopping effect.

Sandra Rusmussen is a booze-soaked narrator who pops up at intervals. I like this touch but could have had her lingering more often to anchor the character. A small gripe. And of course there is an inflatable contingent in the cast that is superb… but you’ll have to see it to enjoy that touch. A totally inspired Hurst take on the media.

This all smacks of present-day, bawdy antics that we see played out with the likes of Miley Cyrus or Kim Kardashian. It could equally be Auckland 2013, a city still riding on the media wave of lurid details about Mayoral adultery. Sex still sells, and we are rash enough to buy into it, at least until the next scandal comes along. “The whole world’s gone lowbrow. Things ain’t what they used to be,” lament Mama and Velma. “Whatever happened to class?” And they’re right.

The world might be populated with celebrity-hungry narcissists, but here at Q Theatre, class is well and truly thriving in theatrical form. Hurst and his team have smashed open the play for a new era.

John Harding’s set adds intimacy to the staging, while Lesley Burkes-Harding’s costumes are a feast of burlesque titillations. Stage management are to be noted for holding the high energy show together in a relatively tight space. Really, the whole creative team is to be congratulated for this production, which is clearly a total team effort the sum of many parts coming together.

A daring, world-class production, not for the faint-hearted but for those interested in visceral entertainment. Go see it.


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