Local talent brings gangster era to life on Chicago stage

"I GET a little bit nervous but once you get on stage that feeling just gets shot through your blood and you thrive off it," 17-year-old Emily Brown explains.

Playing Roxie Hart in the iconic story of Chicago set in the 1920s which opened last night at the Pilbeam Theatre, this local production has all of the elements you would see on Broadway stages.

"Being in Chicago has made me see that although I love singing and writing songs, musical theatre is something I want make a career out of," Emily added.

"I really studied Roxie and I love playing her because she's so manipulative but naïve so there's a real contrast to her.

"Karen (director) said it was rare for someone so young to play this kind of role, but that I did it well."

Cast of Chicago. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Cast of Chicago. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka

One of three main characters in this tale of murder, sex and showbiz, the beautiful blonde took on the manipulative and flirtatious Roxie with real enthusiasm and commitment.

However, her fate could have been much different after planning to enrol in drama schools further south earlier this year. Instead she's put that plan on hold to take centre stage.

Getting bigger and better every year, Rockhampton Venues and Events wowed crowds last year with Dusty Springfield the musical, The Boy from Oz and Miss Saigon years before, and Chicago certainly measures up.

The storyline is a well-known one about the booze soaked and lawless city of Chicago of the 1920s, where criminals and their slick lawyers quickly became the celebrities of the day.

As one scandal lost its appeal, the public's interest quickly shifted to the next headline grabber.

Beginning in the Cook County jail where sultry temptress Velma Kelly (Amanda Locker) reigns supreme, we hear the stories of failed marriages and adultery in Cell Block Tango where these murderesses justify the killing of their men.

The choreography was superb, telling the story through sharp and sensual movements throughout the entire show.

And although she may not have had as many scenes as Emily, Amanda gives 110 per cent to becoming Velma, highlighted in every wave of her hand, flick of her fingers and oomph in her step.

She made the whole production so enjoyable to watch, not to mention the sincerity and power in her vocals.

And then there's Grant Wolf Whitfield playing slimy, greedy Billy Flynn who jumps from one murder case to the next, depending on his client's popularity.

Cast of Chicago. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Cast of Chicago. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka

"I feel like I'm back down there (southern production companies) because the standard and style is no different, and these people aren't even getting paid for it yet they've got just as much commitment, it's fantastic," the long-standing actor, singer and performer, Grant said.

It was mesmerising to watch him in every way, his acting, singing and dancing were all key points to making Rockhampton's rendition of Chicago so memorable.

The truly entertaining, upbeat number, We Both Reached for the Gun was a favourite of mine, purely for its comedy, both Grant and Emily convincingly act out the scene.

Comedy is a strong element throughout, making light of the plot's dark reality translates well.

The whole company really have put so much time and effort into perfecting each element to support the storyline, from the lighting to costume design, giving audiences a thrilling experience.

Dean Netherwood as Amos and Anna Kahler as Matron Morton both provide great support roles, their vocals outstanding in numbers like When You're Good to Mamma and of course, Mister Cellophane.

Trying not to give it away, the tricks and stunts in the show that haven't been done in previous local productions, add even more excitement to an already visual feast.

The props, stage, lighting, brilliant live ensemble and calibre of local talent combine to make the show essential for theatre-lovers as well as anyone who loves a bit of razzle dazzle.

Tickets are selling well, but good seats are still available, the show runs up until March 23.

Rockhampton Venues and Events have done it again, offering a stellar stage show that has you humming the numbers long after you leave the theatre.


WHAT: Chicago the musical

WHERE: Pilbeam Theatre, Rockhampton

WHEN: March 15-23, from 7.30pm.

TICKETS: Adult $47, pensioner $43, student $43

On sale now from the Pilbeam Theatre box office,

Dial'n'Charge on 4927 4111 and online at

Topics:  chicago emily brown pilbeam theatre

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