Creatives Commentary: Director Paul Kerryson on Chicago

Mon 4 May 2020

Paul Kerryson, Director of the 2013 Made at Curve production of Chicago, discusses crafting the look of the production and putting a new spin on a classic show.

Chicago is one of my top three musicals. The perfect fusion of a hit score with the wittiest of lyrics and script. I’d been privileged to have worked with the creators of Chicago, Kander and Ebb, on two of their lesser known musicals, The Rink and 70, Girls, 70, but ever since the well known revival of Chicago in 1997, the rights to perform this musical were not available. I was wondering if I would ever get another shot at directing this fabulous show. I couldn’t believe my luck when, in 2013, the long running London production came to an end and Curve was given the rights to create a new production. Putting the perfect creative team together was the first task. A new production would need thrilling choreography. I was introduced to Drew McOnie and we were immediately overflowing with exciting ideas. The London production was famous for its sexy black costumes and minimal design. Whatever we did with this iconic show had to be different and unique to Curve. I remember saying to our amazing creative team “how about flesh, blood and bullets”. The sensuous element of the show went to a new level, but mixed in with a comic vaudeville style, which hadn’t been seen since the original production on Broadway in 1975. But this was the 2013 Curve Christmas show slot – usually aimed at the whole family. Had we gone too far?! This wasn’t going to be The Sound of Music!  I remember this photograph being taken at the dress rehearsal right at the end of the famous opening number – All That Jazz. Roxie had just made out on the bed before shooting her lover dead with three well aimed bullets. Velma and the Greek style ensemble writhing around on the scene of the crime. It was an exhilarating moment – the perfect cast, choreography, design, pulsating music and all in perfect harmony. We were also using all the power flying and technical tricks of the magnificent Curve. At that moment I knew we had a massive hit on our hands – we had given a great musical a thrilling new look.


Photography: Pamela Raith