Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Gale's Chicago Review

Chicago, too, is one of my favorite plays. I went to see Chicago on opening night. I did not know that it was opening night when the show started, but by intermission I was quite sure.

The opening night 'flubs' were really quite distracting; perhaps moreso because I do theater and I know how the actors are feeling when things aren't going as planned. There were a couple of 'wardrobe malfunctions' where straps and fasteners were unstrapped and unfastened. A much more distracting event was when the two leading ladies exchanged (or tried to) their jackets for a hat and cane on opposite sides of the stage. Velma (Kat Murello) was successful, but poor Roxie (Elizabeth Thomas) was not. The cast member who was supposed to supply the hat and cane wasn't there. But she just smiled and pretended she had a hat on, and they danced on just the same. Things improved when both ladies went offstage during part of the dance, and Velma ditched her hat and cane. I am curious how things might have gone if both actors had had their props.

Some other goofs were a bit more serious. Velma, mid-dance, shoved a chair away from herself only to have it nearly topple over. Mary Sunshine fell off a chair she was dancing on, and later she actually toppled onto a piece of the set, which overturned and broke. This, being probably the worst gaffe of the night, was the most difficult one to detect. Mary Sunshine, played by K. Archambault, remained totally in character, embarrassed but poised. She was helped up by Billy Flynn (David Rodriguez), who, still singing, never missed a beat. Indeed the only way I could tell that this hadn't been intended was the somewhat broken set piece and the faces of the chorus girls who jumped in to help pick it up.

On the subject of chorus girls- I say chorus girls and not ensemble for one big reason- there were way too many of them. There were six named female characters, cameos I'd say, and another !nine! girls in the ensemble. This was contrasted by the six men I'd consider in the ensemble, that is, the ones that danced. These women filled every corner of the stage, and when they all came out for "Cell Block Tango" I was literally scared by the bitter passion in their voices. Almost all of these women were wonderful to watch, each passionate, each adding something special, each different from the next. But all of them on stage at the same time was just too distracting.

The staging of the show was very interesting. The set design was fantastic. It was a unit set, very little changing from one scene to the next. The whole show flowed together, as it was intended to. The choreography was fantastic. Even a number like "Funny Honey", which, including on broadway, I found incredibly boring to watch, was staged in a way that made it entertaining and wonderful. This was only helped by Elizabeth Thomas, who was fantastic. Her rendition of Roxie was totally different than any other version I've ever seen, either on film or in the theater. I loved it. In fact, she was so good at playing the part that she made the part of Velma seem like a supporting role. Adding to that was the fact that Velma was the only member of the cast who was miked. I found the difference between the acoustical levels very distracting; Velma's voice came at you from the speakers above the stage, while everyone else's voices were heard directly from the stage.

The final point of note was the similarity of this version to that of the recent movie. I think almost every creative thing that could've been taken from the movie version, was taken. From the red scarves in "Cell Block Tango" to the cast as puppets complete with strings in "We Both Reached for the Gun" to the Jury played by one man in many hats, no corners were crimped when it came to making this show as similar to the movie as possible. In some cases, the meaning originally indended in the movie failed to come across in this version. Of course, I loved the movie, but sometimes it's nice to see something a little more original.

All in all, the show is definitely worth seeing. I'm sure the opening night jitters are long gone now, the bugs are all worked out, and the show is perfected. The singing, acting, and dancing are all top notch. If you can, go see it, and let me know what you thought.


kat said...

I'm sorry that the technical errors were so distracting. Many were cleared up after opening night, including the sound issues, the prop issues, and the costuming issues. Our cast has really pulled together to get through those things that are beyond our control and I think with each performance we are coming off stronger and stronger with the material were were instructed to present.

Thank you for taking the time to review us as it helps to support the arts.

Kat (V.K.)

Gale said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gale said...

The show was in most respects very strong technically, and I'm glad that the bugs were smoothed out. If there's one thing that really carried the show through, it was the cast. As you said in your interview with Erica, everyone in the cast was so excited to be there, so passionate about their role and about the show. That passion really came across; it made the show terrific to watch, despite any errors that occured.

Thank you.

Community Theater in the Mid Hudson Valley of New York. Information on shows, auditions, and our general adventures onstage, backstage and in the audience.