Nothing ever lasts forever. No matter how long-lasting a career, a performance, a news story looks on paper, the threat that one small thing could see you disappear into the background is always right around the corner.

Those themes sit at the heart of Chicago, yet this classic production is not going anywhere fast. Right from the first notes of All that Jazz, it is clear why Chicago has lasted as long as it has. After a patchy 1975 debut, the 1996 revival is now Broadway's second longest performance and it's now jazz-handed its way into Auckland's Civic Theatre.

Despite the 1920s setting, there is something ageless about this high-energy, high-stakes world of fame-seeking criminals. Carmen Pretorius is a doe-eyed delight as Roxie Hart, Chicago's latest celebrity murderess more desperate for attention than she is for survival, while Amra-Faye Wright captures her rival Velma's spite and repressed desperation with delicious malice.

It's clear after the first four songs are delivered back to back that there isn't much story here. The show makes vague comments about the media's vapidity and celebrity culture but, as things speed from one number to the next, the focus remains on the showpieces rather than diving into these themes.


But, boy, it does deliver. Chicago is bombastic Broadway blockbuster, with an onslaught of memorable ballads that are only matched the frenetic and fabulous routines that accompany them. Razzle Dazzle, Cell Block Tango and Roxie — few shows can rival Chicago when it comes to sheer volume of show-stopping hits and there's hardly a dud in the bunch.

That's largely thanks to the talented cast and chorus bringing the necessary vigour and showmanship. Jonathan Roxmouth is utterly convincing as seedy, smarmy lawyer Billy Flynn, while the bold, enthusiastic chorus flip, spin, shimmy and croon their way through every single number.

Auckland is the first stop on a new world tour and shows the South African-based company has a solid grasp on this award-winning formula. The plot may be as see-through as the outfits but Chicago achieves exactly what it aims to do.

That's to be a big, broad, show-stopping two hours of family entertainment. If the rapturous applause and captivated audience on opening night is anything to go by, Chicago's spotlight won't be dimming any time soon.

What: Chicago
Where: The Civic until September 9
Reviewed by: Ethan Sills