Casey Donovan talks Mama Morton ahead of Chicago opening night in Brisbane

Casey Donovan has enjoyed a bold and varied career since her meteoric rise to fame at the age of 16. She became the youngest ever winner of Australian Idol in 2004 and over the last thirteen years, she has made her mark not only as a musician but also on stage, screen and through her presenting & writing. Casey is a multi-Award winner and ahead of the opening night of Chicago in Brisbane this evening, AussieTheatre’s Peter J Snee caught up with her for a chat. 


Mama Morton is an amazing character, she’s so much fun to play, I get to put on a wig and a power suit and away I go. She is such a powerful role; she’s gutsy, she’s classy and she’s never angry. Although she stands her ground and I love playing that each night. She continually tests me and pushes me to find something new.

She is the countess of the clink and basically; she’s a bit naughty!

Alinta Chidzey, Casey Donovan, Natalie Bassingthwaight. Photo by Peter Brew Bevan

For those who don’t know the show, she has a friendship on the go with Billy Flynn, played by the amazing Tom Burlinson and she lets Billy come in and sell the stories of the girls.

Then Mama takes her cut, Mama doesn’t do nothing for nothing.

As tough as she is though, she does have a heart in there somewhere. It’s such a beautiful but sad situation with Katalin Hunyak. She is the only innocent one in the whole jail and the poor girl gets hung, it’s very sad. I think that’s the part where the audience get to see the other side of Mama Morton, when she realises she’s just lost her little sidekick. Every night she [Jessica Vellucci] gives me this look and I think, you’re breaking my heart.

I absolutely love it; Mama Morton doesn’t have a lot to play, but when she’s there, she’s there. She definitely has a lot of colour in a very short amount of time. 



I love singing ‘When You’re Good to Mama’. I love that vaudeville style performance. It’s so great hearing the audience reactions from the stage. I love having the opportunity to tell great stories and Chicago is an amazing story to tell. 

Discussing life on the road, Casey said:

Casey Donovan. Photo by Jeff Busby

Being on the road is part and parcel of the job, you just have to find your feet in a new city, get to know where to get a good coffee and the hot little spots you have to go. I love Brissy, it’s quite warm up here to be wearing a double breasted suit, but I am loving it. I always travel with my guitar and it’s nice to get that out whenever I can. It’s nice to not sing show tunes for a while and stretch the vocal cords in other ways. 

Prior to appearing in Chicago, Casey appeared in The Real Full Monty for Channel Seven, where she and seven other brave and beautiful women revealed all, to raise awareness of breast cancer and the importance of getting regular check-ups. 

It was certainly confronting. It was scary giving Australia all of your vulnerabilities, that’s a big thing; but I got to do it with such amazing and powerful women. I felt it was my role for the bigger girls out there to say, you know what, there may be things we don’t like about our bodies but it’s so important to go and get checked and not to be scared. 

I think just be happy with yourself and be confident within yourself because you can’t move forward if you don’t love yourself. Some days it’s harder than others, but you have just got to get out there, put a smile on your face and keep going, keep working on you because at the end of the day that’s all that matters.

Casey has a busy year planned for 2020 and eluded to some big secrets that we will hopefully hear about very soon. She also hopes she will have the time to get back in the studio to do some more recording and also perform more of her work internationally. 

Casey noted that it will be sad to lose Tom Burlinson at the end of the Brisbane run, but Melbourne audiences can look forward to Jason Donovan taking over the role of Billy Flynn. 

Chicago is now playing at QPAC until December 6, tickets for both Brisbane and Melbourne can be purchased at

Peter J Snee

Peter is a British born creative, working in the live entertainment industry. He holds an honours degree in Performing Arts and has over 12 years combined work experience in producing, directing and managing artistic programs & events. Peter has traversed the UK, Europe and Australia pursuing his interest in theatre. He is inspired by great stories and passionately driven by pursuing opportunities to tell them.

Peter J Snee

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