At last Australia's very own merry murderesses of Chicago have been revealed, as producers announced the cast of the Kander and Ebb musical revival to open at Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, on July 4.
After industry speculation about established performers Rhonda Burchmore, Kelly Abbey or Leonie Page taking leads, the role of Roxie Hart is to be played by newcomer Chelsea Gibb. At 22 years of age this young graduate of the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts may seem a surprise Roxie, a character who claims she is older than she ever intended to be, but Gibb's casting comes with the accolade of an Ann Reinking seal of approval. Choreographer Reinking, a Broadway Roxie herself, travelled to Australia with director Walter Bobbie to oversee auditions.
Tapping alongside Gibb will be acclaimed Caroline O'Connor as Velma Kelly. O'Connor's electric stage personality has won critical raves for her performances as Anita in the Australian tour of West Side Story and also as Mabel Normand in the recent West End production of Mack and Mabel. Gibb and O'Connor not only follow in the Fosse footsteps of notable Broadway and West End Roxies and Velmas, but also Australian theatre legends Nancye Hayes and Geraldine Turner, who toured in the fondly-remembered original Australian company in 1981.
John Diedrich, another Australian actor to find success on West End stages, will play Billy Flynn, but an announcement is still anticipated regarding the casting of Mama Morton.
With the overwhelming critical and public response to the current Broadway and West End productions, co-producers Barry and Fran Wexler, the International Management Group, and David Atkins Enterprises are confident about repeating the Chicago success story around Australia. Bookings for the Melbourne season open March 24 (61-3)136166.