Burdekin Singers and Theatre Company are painting the town, with the group staging Chicago at the Burdekin Theatre until 11 February.
We sat down with leads Jasmin Delle Baite (Roxie) and Laura Bromham (Velma) to find out a bit about the musical and the growing talent pool in the Burdekin.
Are you both regulars on the Burdekin Theatre stage?
Jasmin: This is my 13th year performing with the Burdekin Singers and my 14th show. My first musical was Back to the 80’s in 2005 when I was 13 years old, and I haven’t stopped since! Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to play some dream roles including Liza Minnelli in The Boy From Oz (2015), Rizzo in Grease (2012), Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar (2013) and Alice Beineke in The Addams Family Musical (2016). Since moving to Townsville, I also played Nessa Rose in Townsville Choral Society’s Wicked (2017), and was in NQOMT’s High School Musical (2010) and Sweeney Todd (2013).
Laura: I performed in my first musical with the Burdekin Singers back in 2007. The show was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and I can still remember all of the coat’s colours in order! Since then I have performed in nine musicals and four theatre restaurants with the Burdekin Singers and have had some minor roles such as Patty in Grease (2012) and Jennyanydots in Cats (2013). Since moving to Townsville last year I was also part of the ensemble of Wicked.
Can you tell me a bit about Chicago and the roles you play?
Jasmin: Chicago is a musical set in the 1920’s – a time of jazz, cabaret and liquor which follows the stories of a group of “Cell Block” Murderesses in jail. I play Roxie Hart; a housewife and an aspiring dancer who murders her lover after he tries to leave her. This is the catalyst that leads to us following Roxie’s journey through her time in jail, where her case and trial becomes a media sensation, as she strives for fame against her once inspiration and now rival Velma Kelly. Roxie is determined and desperate, and is willing to do anything and use anybody to make her claim to fame, and she rarely thinks about the consequences of her actions.
Laura: I play Velma Kelly; a famous 1920s vaudevillian who performed alongside her sister in a double act. However she finds herself in jail after catching her sister and her husband ‘doing number 17’ and murdering both them! She is a fierce, sarcastic, sassy and strong character who loves the spotlight and struggles when the upcoming start Roxie Hart begins to steal her fame. She works hard to keep her celebrity status eventually swallowing her pride and trying to persuade Roxie to becoming a duo act but is cast aside as Roxie continues to surpass her.
The story can be a bit intense, but so empowering at the same time! What message do you take from the story?
Jasmin: To me, my favourite thing about Chicago is that it is a female-dominant show. It is really the only show, until the likes of Wicked came along, where it is a female lead cast. For a female performer, that’s a really big deal. To me, this show portrays the message of strong, powerful and fierce women – and that’s what makes them sexy. Yes, they have the costumes and music which adds to it – but when you strip it all back, the reason why these women are so sexy is because of their confidence, determination and independence. Obviously we don’t condone murder or crime haha, but there are a lot of beautiful, young women in this cast, so I really hope they and the audience are able to take that message away.
Laura: Jasmin has answered this so well I agree completely! Whilst there is obviously some questionable actions throughout the plot, Chicago is centred around strong, determined women who never back down and keep fighting for themselves – it’s very empowering!
Why should people from out of town make the trip to see the show?
Jasmin: I honestly believe that each year the Burdekin Singers puts on a very high quality show, which is definitely worth the trip! Last year’s production of The Phantom of the Opera was such a big achievement for the Burdekin Singers and has really raised the standard. We are so fortunate in this town to have such amazing people to learn from and work with: Pat Nuttall, who has dedicated her life to the Singers; our other musical, vocal and dance directors; and production crew (set, costume, prop realisation and lighting). Working in a small town has the benefit of having that great sense of community and everyone working together as a team. The Burdekin Singers is a family, and I love coming home each year to perform with them.
Laura: The Burdekin Singers always produce amazing shows – there is so much hard work and dedication put into them and it shows on stage. Pat Nuttal is the driving force of the Burdekin Singers and she always creates fantastic performances. For a small town, we are full of talented people not only those on stage but all the behind the scenes people who help bring these shows to life.
What would you say to people who may not think the Burdekin has a thriving Arts scene?
Jasmin: I would have to say that’s the exact opposite of the truth! I have been so fortunate to grow up on the Burdekin stage, and that is due to the various and plentiful opportunities I had because of the Burdekin Singers and the Burdekin Shire Council and their commitment to the Arts. With events including annual musicals and junior theatre productions and theatre restaurants, “Takes Two”, Burdekin Eisteddfods, Fast Track, Water Festival, Relay for Life, Christmas Carols – the opportunities are endless, and I think it’s a great place for young people to develop their craft and gain experience in the arts. There are also several dance schools and a music/singing school which allows students to perform on stage each year.
Laura: Again, I agree with Jasmin – I had so many opportunities to perform growing up in the Burdekin and even more are available to children and adults nowadays. There is such a variety of dancing, singing and acting opportunities thanks to local organisations like the Burdekin Singers and the high schools as well having events such as drama festivals, art exhibitions and staging musicals themselves. I loved growing up in the Burdekin and returning home for this musical has been a dream; I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of Chicago.
Catch the Burdekin Singers’ production of Chicago at the Burdekin Theatre from 2-10 February, with tickets available here. For information on the Burdekin Singers’ upcoming shows and auditions, visit their Facebook page.