Early in John Kander’s career, before he had made it as a composer on Broadway, his publisher Tommy Valando said that there was someone he wanted him to meet: a young librettist called Fred Ebb.

Chicago Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Casey Donovan, Alinta Chidzey and cast members of the 2019 Australian production of Chicago. Photo © Peter Brew-Bevan

Kander, who is still going strong at 92, remembers that fateful 1962 meeting as if it was yesterday. “We were both signed to the same publisher, this is at the very beginnings of our careers, and he literally said, ‘I think you guys should meet each other, I think you’d like each other’. And so, he arranged a meeting and we started writing together almost immediately, almost that afternoon I would say. He had been working with somebody else and they continued to work together for a while so I wasn’t breaking up a marriage, but Fred and I became very fertile right away,” says Kander from his New York home.

Kander and Ebb. Their partnership would become as legendary as Rodgers and Hammerstein or Lerner and Loewe, a dynamic duo who would help modernise the American...