Australia, get ready to paint the town in all that jazz, as the legendary musical ‘Chicago’ gets set to travel across the country for a new tour.
The hit 1975 musical theatre phenomenon is the longest-running show on Broadway, and will be going off-off-off-Broadway to tour around Australia, starting in Perth in November and travelling to Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney.
Stepping into the heels of leading character, the vaudevillian Velma Kelly, is Zoe Ventoura. The Australian actress will be familiar to most as Dr Alex Neilson on ‘Home And Away’ and her three-season turn as Melissa Rafter in the hit drama ‘Packed To The Rafters’. Having initially studied a Bachelor Of Dance at the Victorian College Of Arts, ‘Chicago’ will see Zoe once again returning to her passion for musical theatre.
“It wasn’t really in the realm of possibility in my brain, particularly because I’d left musical theatre; my career was all on-screen for so long,” Zoe says. “I just didn’t think that it would all be coming full circle like this, but now that it has, I’m still kind of pinching myself that it is for this role in this show. It’s a dream!”
‘Chicago’ will be Zoe’s second time returning to the stage after a 15-year career in film and television. It was only earlier this year that the star made her return to theatre in a short Sydney production of ‘La Cage Aux Folles’, the musical based on the 1978 French film, later remade as the Robin Williams film ‘The Birdcage’.
“I had an incredible experience [on ‘La Cage Aux Folles’],” she says. “It was a little nerve-wracking going into it because I was dusting off skills that I hadn’t used for a really, really long time. . . But it was brilliant, and I had such an incredible team around me – the cast and the creatives were just so supportive. It really was such a great experience and if I hadn’t had that great experience, I definitely wouldn’t have had the confidence to even audition for ‘Chicago’, let alone even get up there and do it.”
Image © Juliet Taylor
The role of Velma Kelly has long been a dream of Zoe’s, ever since seeing the 2002 Academy Award-winning film (the first musical to win Best Picture since 1968’s ‘Oliver!’).
“I was obsessed with that film,” she says. “Musicals are notoriously hard to translate on to screen, and I think it was one of the first ones where they absolutely nailed it. To this day, you can still watch it and it still stands up today. The music is incredible; the characters are beautifully written; the story is so fun; and it’s Bob Fosse choreography, which is iconic.”
The cast of this production of ‘Chicago’ is filled with talented performers whom Zoe is excited to work with. Starring opposite Zoe in the role of Roxie Hart is theatre star Lucy Maunder, and the role of Roxie’s husband Amos is none other than comedian and star of ‘Kath And Kim’, Peter Rowsthorn. Meanwhile, the role of lawyer and master manipulator Billy Flynn will be taken by the legend of the Australian stage, Anthony Warlow.
Zoe has begun her training regimen for the role, including vocal and physical strength training. For now, she is buzzing with excitement that she can tell everyone she has landed her dream role.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive,” she says. “Once you get a role like this, it’s hard to keep the news under your hat. I’m so relieved to get it out.”
‘Chicago The Musical’ 2023/24 Australia Tour DatesFrom 21 November – Crown Theatre (Perth)
From 2 January – Queensland Performing Arts Centre
From 23 March – Her Majesty's Theatre (Melbourne)
From 9 June – Capitol Theatre (Sydney)