One of the highlights of my life is when Debbie Keyt tells me of her plans for an upcoming show and invites me to choreograph. This moment can only become more perfect when that show is Chicago. And so it was… being asked to choreograph a show I had performed in as an ensemble member back in Year 8 high school; a show I have wanted to choreograph for the twenty-six years since.
Being part of a team with a clear vision and mutual respect is what makes Beaumaris Theatre so special. Working with Deb, Rhonda, Lynda, Fiona, Pietro, Alan, Cam, Petar and Jen means there is a genuine collaboration between the design and operation elements of the production, allowing visions to be developed and our cast and crew to be able to create an entertaining and captivating performance for our audiences. Six podiums to double as chairs and jail cells? 1920s prams for eight dancers? No problems!
Whilst I have had my plans for choreographing Chicago in my mind for a long time, I stuck to my rule of not constructing the dance routines until we had cast our show. This means the choreography is not only suitable to abilities, but most importantly, reflects the talents and personalities of the cast members. A call out for our dancer’s “party tricks” gave us not only the limber moves in “All That Jazz” but enabled us to create ‘Razzle Dazzle” with a subtle circus theme. When the gorgeous Alana offered up balloon animals as her party trick, little did she know she’d be creating a balloon sword on stage every night!
Chicago has many strengths but one of them is the variety in the style of musical numbers, which I tried to encapsulate in the choreography. We have the sultry foreplay and climax of Roxie’s affair in “All That Jazz”, a song of female angst and strength in “Cell Block Tango”, a true to life (and still highly relevant) interpretation of media brainwashing and spin in “Both Reached for the Gun” and glorious solos for Roxie and Velma where they plan their idyllic future performances through dance in “Roxie” and “I Can’t Do It Alone”. The gorgeous white fans in “All I Care About Is Love” are a much loved part of this song and I am truly grateful to Lynda French for sourcing these so we could create this number in the style it deserved.
In Act 2, “Me and My Baby” saw a full stage of mums with prams (and a gentleman keeping Roxie out of “the storm”) to not only illustrate Roxie’s fantasy, but to create large scale movement, craziness and chaos from which we were able to transition into minimalist staging of “Mr Cellophane” which focused solely on the emotions of Amos… with a few lighting laughs at the end. Act 2 culminates with the double act of Velma and Roxie. To illustrate the collaboration between these two characters, this choreography featured highlights of the routines they had performed in their respective solos in Act 1, to depict the merging of their acts.
Thank you to Deb, Rhonda, the wonderful cast, crew and Committee for making Chicago such a joy to choreograph. Specifically, I acknowledge the extraordinary cast of dancers who I had the pleasure of working with; hardworking, talented, kind and just utterly wonderful humans, their dedication showed in their performances and I am so grateful to them. We did it!
Camilla Klesman, Choreographer